Alex Galchenyuk evolving into ‘completely different player’

Overtime hero Alex Galchenyuk joins John Bartlett post-game to talk about his performance in the Montreal Canadiens win against the Dallas Stars.

MONTREAL—Montreal Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien has no regrets about the way he’s used forward Alex Galchenyuk to date.

Galchenyuk spent his first 44 games of the season as Montreal’s third-most used centre before moving to left wing for the next 21 games.

On Saturday, Galchenyuk played his first game as Montreal’s top pivot, recording two goals and leading all Canadiens forwards in ice-time against the Winnipeg Jets with 20:01.

On Monday, Galchenyuk scored another two goals, including the game-winner in overtime. He added an assist in 19:10 against the Dallas Stars.

“The way he was at the beginning of the season and the way he is right now—he’s a completely different player,” said Therrien in French after Montreal’s 4-3 win over the Stars. “You want to give opportunities, and you don’t want to change an athlete’s personality… it’s one of the reasons we put him on the wing. We gave him a chance to find his game and eventually he wouldn’t be there.

“It’s often a question of timing, and the timing was good as Alex began to perform.”

Galchenyuk had recorded five goals in his last five games at left wing before Therrien put him back at the centre position.

After Monday’s game, the 22-year-old admitted he’s evolved.

“It all started from practice, I started working on my game,” he said. “Obviously coming into the NHL everyone pays so much attention to defence, but at the same time I didn’t want to lose my offensive game and I worked hard to get it where it is now and I still want to improve more.”

Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty has benefited from Galchenyuk’s improved play, scoring a goal and three assists in the two games from his left wing.

“When a centreman wants the puck that bad like he does right now with the confidence that he has, he knows when to be patient and when to make the quick play,” said Pacioretty. “It’s a credit to him with his patience and slowing down the game in the neutral zone. But I think in the offensive zone he is moving the puck quicker, and that was an area he needed to improve.”

Therrien would like to see Galchenyuk sustain his level of play as the team’s top centre from here to the end of the season.

“He’s not playing on his heels,” said Therrien in French. “It’s very important he play on his toes and that he play aggressively. It’s very important that he focuses on being a dominant offensive player, which he’s capable of being.

“In the past he’s had some good sequences for two or three games, and then after that it’s become a bit more difficult. But over the last month he’s been able to maintain the quality of play we’re looking for.”

Galchenyuk has a career-high 23 goals and is on pace to beat his career best in assists (26) despite averaging only 15:49 in time on ice per game.