(Toronto) The question, posed in the morning, was both luminous and precise: which dimension of Brendan Gallagher will be the most difficult to replace? His offensive qualities or his heart at work?
Dominique Ducharme did not hesitate for long: “The energy he brings,” replied the head coach to journalist Marc Antoine Godin, from Athletics.
“It’s in its nature”, in its DNA, listed Ducharme. “It’s a hard intangible to replace. ”
A few hours before the game between his team and the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Ducharme would no doubt have preferred to be wrong. Because at certain times of the match, ended in a 3-2 defeat of the Habs, his words took on the air of prophecy.
Gallagher, remember, suffered a broken thumb that will see him miss the rest of the season and possibly the start of the playoffs. He was also placed on the long-term injured list on Wednesday.
In his absence, a completely extinct team showed up at the Scotiabank Arena. Auston Matthews, who is always happy to manhandle the Canadian, did not shy away from his pleasure by scoring from the first minute. Even if the visitors quickly replied, the Leafs still dominated the engagement, almost without sharing.
It was frankly placed in second, as the Montrealers bombarded the net defended by new record holder Jack Campbell. But in the last twenty, which started tied at 1-1, bad habits returned and Toronto took the opportunity to give themselves a two-goal lead.
The lack of emotion has never been more obvious than during a numerical superiority that began with some 8 minutes to play. The Canadian did not even get a shot, although he had a delay to fill. Let’s just say, in short, that Gallagher’s proverbial energy wouldn’t have been too much.
Ducharme argued that his men would have to stick together to make up for the loss of the scathing attacker, because “we will have twenty games to play like that”, he recalled.
On the other hand, he does not attribute the false start to a “question of emotions”, but to the fact that his troops were “less active, too spectators”. “It is not a player who would have changed everything,” he added.
Goalkeeper Jake Allen, to whom his teammates owe a debt of gratitude for keeping them in the game until the end, made the same kind of speech.
According to him, to attribute the defeat to the absence of Gallagher would be too short. “It’s an excuse,” he said.
“He will be sorely missed,” Allen agreed. It is the heart and soul of this team. But we have to find a way to win and do it as a group. It’s a chance for the guys to get up and fill his shoes until he comes back. ”
Around the net
Speaking of Gallagher’s shoes, there are also those of the right winger to fill in. And, by the same token, those of the 30-goal scorer.
At his first audition to the right of Phillip Danault and Tomas Tatar, Jesperi Kotkaniemi made a good impression. This trio had the ungrateful task of containing Matthews’, and aside from a few more difficult stretches, they did their job pretty well.
Where the absence of number 11 was possibly felt the most, it is around the opposing net. With the exception of Corey Perry, a regular, Campbell hasn’t received a lot of visitors near his semi-circle.
In the second period, the Canadian directed 31 pucks in his direction five on five. It’s huge, and it shows dominance in puck possession.
Yet, according to advanced statistics site Natural Stat Trick, the Habs only got one high-quality scoring chance in those 20 minutes. A.
The same site provides a schematization of the origin of the shooting attempts. After 40 minutes it looked like this:
Summary explanation: The players in white dramatically failed both to land shots from inside face-offs and to jump on their returns.
Expressed differently: Gallagher’s bread and butter.
Ducharme certainly argued that a member of each trio was responsible for working close to the goal, this facet was lacking in three of his units. Because Perry scored both of his short-distance goals. Mission accomplished in his case. But it will have to be small.
“You have to get there with anger,” Ducharme confirmed.
How many times since the start of his career has Brendan Gallagher been a spark plug, even an inspiration to his teammates on the ice? We have long since stopped counting them. The high-sounding record of the Habs during their last extended absences also demonstrates this: 4-5-1 in 2019-2020 and 7-9-2 in 2016-2017.
The Canadiens have 20 games to play, including 12 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets, three teams ahead of him in the standings.
Knowing that the high-emotional clashes multiply as the calendar ends, a way will have to be found to replicate Gallagher’s contribution… without Gallagher. A complex task, but necessary.
His shoes are right there. They just ask to be worn.
The goalie looked bad on the first goal of the game, but without his brilliance, the Leafs could have inflicted a severe correction on the Canadian.
Difficult game for his unit, despite several confrontations supposed to be favorable against the fourth line of the Leafs.
The number of the match
Turnovers are a subjective statistic, which is not counted uniformly in the NHL. But the 29 that we allotted to the Maple Leafs on the scoresheet betray muddled passes.