We all heard of the “Domino Effect”, which describes the chain reaction produced when when an event sets off a chain of similar events. Welcome to the “Gallagher Effect” which, one could argue after Friday’s 5-1 over the Bruins before 67,246 at Gillette Stadium, is the same thing.
When I was preparing my game preview for the Heritage Classic, one statistic leaped off the page. With Brendan Gallagher in the lineup the Canadiens were 16-4-2 this season. Without. him 5-11-1. You can now update that number to 17-4-2 when he’s on the Canadiens top line with Tomas Plekanec and Max Pacioretty. Without him over the last 17 games, both Pacioretty and Plekanec looked totally lost.
For the first time since Nov. 22nd , Michel Therrien had a number one line to go up against an opponent’s top unit, which in this game was centred by Patrice Bergeron. Zdeno Chara was on the ice for almost every shift the Plekanec line took in the game, and, once again Gallagher drove him crazy. The line had six scoring points – Gallagher and Pacioretty each with a goal and assist and Tomas Plekanec with two assists. Gallagher had seven shot attempts, three of them on goal and was easily the story of the game.
Gallagher’s presence rippled all the way through the Canadiens lineup Friday. With a settled number one line, David Desharnais was back in his comfort zone with the much more favourable matchups that go with being a third line centre. And it paid off in his first shift of the game as he batted home the game’s opening goal, his first in 18 games. And the fourth line reverted to early season form as an offensive factor. Paul Byron scored twice, the first of which came early in the second period and turned out to be the game winner. The Gallagher effect? Maybe.
Boston coach Claude Julien was to call his team’s performance one of the worst of the season, but the Canadiens had an awful lot to do with the way the game was played, especially in the first period when they outshot them 14-3.
The confidence level of the team was felt all the way back to the goal. Mike Condon didn’t have to work very hard through the game’s first 25 minutes or so, but the Bruins 23-12 through the final half of the game. Who knows what might have happened had Condon not made the glove save on Ryan Spooner with a tenth of a second remaining in the second period. The save was the difference of being ahead 3-0 in the intermission or ahead 3-1 and momentum swinging in Boston’s favour.
An interesting note on P.K. Subban. He again came close to playing half the game – 27:14. His defense partner, Nathan Beaulieu logged only 16 minutes. Part of the reason for the disparity was a string of special team assignments, especially in the second period when Subban and Markov were re-united.
On the down side, Dale Weise suffered what appeared to be a wrist injury after he was slashed by the Bruins Kevan Miller during his second shift of the second period> He didn’t return. We’ll know more about that in the next day or so. Brian Flynn moved up from the fourth line to fill in for him.
The Galchenyuk line, which had been the Canadiens best over the last five games, didn’t do much in this one. It produced only two shots on goal and was on the ice for the only Bruins goal.
The Canadiens finish the longest road trip in their history with a game in Philadelpha on Tuesday. They have a chance of finishing the eight game grind with wins in three of the final four games with two of those wins against Atlantic Division teams at a critical time.
Are the Canadiens out of the woods? Not by a long shot. Let’s just say, things are looking up.
Thanks to the Gallagher Effect.