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Was Claude Julien right to bench Alex Galchenyuk on Thursday night?

Julien's decision to give limited ice time to Galchenyuk was a controversial one. Was he right to be disappointed in the Habs winger?

New York Rangers v Montreal Canadiens Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

In his post-game press conference, Claude Julien talked about his team losing battles along the boards and in front of the net. When asked if this was the reason Alex Galchenyuk was benched during the third period and received limited minutes in the game, he answered with: “maybe.”

The Habs head coach was definitely disappointed by the play of his left-winger. However, the fact that Montreal was in dire need of a goal at the end of the game made the decision to staple one of their most prolific scorers to the bench questionable for a lot of people.

Was it the right decision from Julien to forfeit one of his best offensive assets to teach a lesson?

Let's take a look at some of the limited shifts of Galchenyuk to answer that question, starting with the one on which Hathaway scored the game-tying goal.

Centres are praised for having the hardest job in the defensive zone. They have to act as support to every other player, and it is said of them that they have to be the second man on every play.

While wingers can sometimes cruise through the defensive aspect of the game unnoticed, they have to be first on the side boards to clear the zone every time. It was an overall poor effort from Galchenyuk that led to Calgary's second goal of the game.

The three strides he took to reach the rim-around pass of Jacob de la Rose were enough for him to get to the puck first, but he didn't prevent Hathaway from making his own play on it. He could have either hustled a bit more and gotten more time to make a play or a dump-out, or used his body to get in front of Hathaway and shield the puck as he arrived to the boards. A teammate could have then swept in to help.

Instead, all that was needed was a pokecheck and a small shove for Galchenyuk to turn away from the boards and forfeit possession back to the Calgary Flames.

It wasn't the only mistake on the play, as a couple of seconds later Paul Byron didn't follow his man to the net, preferring to stay flat-footed in the shooting lane. It created a three-on-two down low that Sam Bennett used to attack the net.

Earlier in the game, Galchenyuk also fumbled in the same spot on the ice, when he chose to use his stick to try and stop a bouncing puck instead of his body. He had time to let the puck hit him, fall on the ice, and make a pass, but he tried to immediately turn to face up the ice and rush the breakout.

Those are the details that can make a difference between a clean zone exit and a turnover. And what coaches look at when they determine who they can trust in the defensive zone.

There are also other times where things don't really go your way and you look bad. In the clip below, Karl Alzner stops the rimmed puck instead of sliding it over to Galchenyuk directly, which is what the winger is expecting. The puck is lost and it flies right over to the defender #27 is supposed to cover.

He had checked over his shoulder a second earlier for that defender. Had he saw the giveaway coming, something that can't really be held against him, he would probably have been in the right position to stop the shot.

As long as you show a complete effort, most of the mistakes you make can be forgiven. Unfortunately, this is not always the case for the Habs winger.

He's a powerful skater who sometimes doesn't utilize this tool in his defensive play. In the clip above, he doesn't have to be overly physical on the backcheck to take the puck away from Jankowski, he just needs to keep his feet moving. That way, he would at least force the Flames player to cut back away from him and prevent the shot on net.

A one-handed reach to lightly tap a player's hands or stick doesn't accomplish much, and shouldn't be the end play of a backchecker; taking the puck back or stopping a player from getting into the zone altogether is. It was something that was definitely possible for Galchenyuk on the play.

It comes down to mental engagement. Small things can start to pile up against you, especially if the coach feels you are not at the top of your game.

Even if you have incredible skill, preferential treatment rarely exist in hockey. Everyone has to pull in the same direction. If you start to turn a blind eye to one player's mistakes, it's hard to make the rest of the team accountable.

So, was it the right decision from Julien to forfeit one of his best offensive assets to teach a lesson?