Oh, aren’t the hockey gods fickle? Toronto Maple Leafs’ newcomer Alex Galchenyuk had just come off a great game – in fact – he was ending his second great game. Then, disaster hit. And, after the ice chips melted, Galchenyuk was left with a mixed bag of good and bad after Thursday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Down: Galchenyuk Sat Out Game 1
Prior to the postseason, when Galchenyuk was traded to the Maple Leafs, he had played really well. His work ethic was beyond what the Maple Leafs expected, and he fit in well skill wise and speed wise with the Maple Leafs’ top six forward group. He contributed so well that the Maple Leafs came to believe they had found a diamond in the scrap heap.
Undoubtedly, that’s still true. However, when Game 1 of the playoff series came against the Montreal Canadiens, Galchenyuk found himself sitting. Nick Foligno took his place in the team’s second line. Then, disaster struck the team early in Game 1 when John Tavares went down with his horrible injury.
To cover for Tavares absence, Galchenyuk was injected into the lineup for Game 2. Although the Maple Leafs won the hockey game handily by a 5-1 score, Galchenyuk didn’t contribute much to the victory. The same was true for or Game 3. Galchenyuk played well enough, but didn’t find the score sheet.
Up: Game 4 Was Completely Different
Centered by Alex Kerfoot, Galchenyuk scored a goal and two assists in the Maple Leafs’ 4-0 win over Montreal in Game 4. He registered the primary assists on both goals by William Nylander and Jason Spezza and he scored an empty-net goal late in the third period.
With Tavares out of the lineup, Galchenyuk has had a chance for second-line minutes; and, by and large he’s produced. If he continues to produce, he’ll likely see more minutes during the playoffs – especially if the Maple Leafs can more past the series with the Canadiens. He’s also likely to become part of the team’s roster moving into next season.
Down (After Being Up Early in the Game): Galchenyuk Gets Assist, But His Giveaway Leads to Overtime Loss
In Game 5, although the Canadiens put the Maple Leafs behind the 8 ball by running up a score of 3-0 early in the second period, Galchenyuk continued to buzz. His shot was tipped by Jake Muzzin for the game-tying 3-3 goal halfway thought the third period.
Then Galchenyuk made a mistake. His errant pass was picked off and Canadiens’ youngsters Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield had an open 2-on-0 rush the other way. Suzuki converted, and his overtime goal allowed the Canadiens to stay alive in the series.
The Final Answer
After the game, when Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe was interviewed, he was asked what he would say to Galchenyuk (and also to young Swedish defenseman Rasmus Sandin whose giveaways and mistakes led to two Canadiens’ goals). Keefe responded by saying that, when mistakes happen, he talks with the player to share what plays could have been made or what other options there were. Then it’s forgotten, and the work continues.
Keefe also noted that his team didn’t play particularly well by falling behind 3-0. As a result, they were “chasing the game.” When that happens, he noted, mistakes matter more. When the team is playing well, he added, mistakes don’t seem to hurt as much. His point is that the team needs to play better – especially off the start of the game.
If the Maple Leafs can do that, they’re on the way to meet the Winnipeg Jets.
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