The Montreal Canadiens found a way to win their first visit to Buffalo last night, taking down the Sabres 3-1 in their own barn. It was the second game in a row where they were largely outshot by the opposition, and relied rather heavily on Jake Allen to keep things close enough for them to win.
It was also the second game in a row where Brendan Gallagher found the score sheet, in what was probably his best game in years.
He ended up with the game winner, a truly vintage effort on his part where he simply put his head down, drove the net, and cleaned up a puck sitting in the crease.
The NHL’s new advanced data site confirms what anyone who has watched the Canadiens for the last several years would know; Gallagher has lost a step. His top skating speed is down, as are his bursts over 20mph, and he just looks generally slower than he ever has on the ice.
This isn’t news to Habs fans, but the question is whether he can remain a productive player given his new reality. In the last two games, he’s been showing that he can, relying more on effective positioning and his innate nose for the net that helped get him to the show in the first place.
We’ve seen older, slower players remain effective later in their careers thanks to good hockey sense. He still has that, and if he can continue getting to those high-percentage areas near the net, there is reason to believe that he could be in line for a resurgence this year. He’ll need to continue this level of play to prove that it is indeed a resurgence, and not merely the death rattle of his career.
His contract is one that the organization would likely prefer to get out from under, with three years remaining after this season at a $6.5 million cap hit. Moving that contract would require sustained production, as would being able to live with it as part of the roster for the next three years. They can’t do anything about the deal itself, but they can continue putting him in a position to succeed, and let the chips fall where they may.
For now, pucks are falling for him in the crease, and that’s just where he likes them.
Click the play button below to listen to your full Bottom Six Minutes, also available wherever you get your podcasts. It’s a very quick turnaround this time, as we’ll be back after tonight’s game against the New Jersey Devils.