After Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarter-final between the Montreal Canadiens and the Philadelphia Flyers, Canadiens associate (and interim) head coach Kirk Muller said that Brendan Gallagher brought the team into the fight.
From the first shift, he was playing like everyone who watches the team knows how Gallagher can play at his best. He was antagonizing, he was physical, and he scored a goal. Let’s face it, if there was a way to count how many times you can frustrate your opponents, Gallagher could have a hat trick named after him.
Late in the game, Gallagher’s jaw was broken by Flyers defenceman Matt Niskanen, who will serve his one-game suspension in Game 6 on Friday. It will require surgery and force him out of the bubble — and out of the series.
For the second time in six games, the Canadiens will enter the fight without one of their leaders. The circumstances between Claude Julien and Gallagher leaving the bubble are obviously different, but similar. In Game 2, the Canadiens responded to their coach having to leave the team by playing a perfect system game in a dominant 5-0 win.
In Game 5, Gallagher led his team the way you want to play an elimination game. There was a sense of urgency. They knew the only way to continue their season was to win. In a perhaps cruel twist of fate, after showing his team how it’s done, Gallagher won’t be on the ice to continue that fight.
The Canadiens knew going into Game 2 that the only way Julien would re-join the team this season would be to win their series against the Flyers. The same holds true for Gallagher.
It’s also ironic that the team will be led by Muller for a game without Gallagher. The man behind the Canadiens bench knows what it takes to win a Stanley Cup. He also knows what it’s like to wear a #11 Canadiens jersey with an ‘A’ on it.
If the 20 players that take the ice Friday night remember to play as if they were wearing #11, the Canadiens may very well be on their way to continuing that fight all the way to game 7.