Canadiens’ First Quarter MVP: Brendan Gallagher

For the first quarter of the Montreal Canadiens’ season, their MVP isn’t the most obvious candidate this time around. Carey Price, Max Pacioretty and Jonathan Drouin seemed like the obvious choices at the beginning of the season but they have had their struggles. The player that has been a leader and scoring consistently for the Habs is Brendan Gallagher.

Brendan Gallagher Canadiens
Brendan Gallagher (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Making a Comeback

Gallagher is second on the team in points with 15 points in 25 games — Drouin is first with 16 — but he leads the team in goals with 10 on the season, three more than next-best, Pacioretty. Last season, the hand injuries clearly affected how he was holding his stick and how he shot the puck. It showed in his production with just 29 points in 64 games. A clean bill of health and some adjustments have revitalized him as he is playing his best hockey for the first time in a while. 

Other than the production, the encouraging sign for Gallagher is seeing him play that ‘Energizer Bunny’ role — the crash and bang game he is famous for. He is retrieving pucks with more ease and going into the opponent’s crease a lot more compared to last season. Gallagher is Montreal’s spark plug and while it’s difficult to measure hustle, he certainly has it in spades.

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While he doesn’t have the speed of Paul Byron or the more natural elite skill sets of Drouin and Alex Galchenyuk, Gallagher is a player who forced his way into the NHL in the 2013 shortened season because his game translates to any situation and he wasn’t going to be denied a spot in the lineup.

Brendan Gallagher – From Afterthought to Leader

Unlike Galchenyuk, who came in with immediate hype as the 2012 third overall pick, Gallagher used his remaining eligibility in junior hockey to steadily rise up the team’s prospect rankings. That included making noise at the team’s training camp in 2011 and starring for Team Canada at the 2012 World Juniors.

A fifth round pick in 2010, most players who go in that round are afterthoughts who barely sniff the big leagues. But Gallagher? He registered his 200th career point in Monday’s game against Columbus with a goal to open the game. His next milestone will be his 100th career goal where he is currently just three away. He is the only pick from Montreal’s 2010 draft class to become an NHL regular.

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Like hustle, it’s hard to measure leadership. In Montreal, Pacioretty has the ‘C’ while Gallagher, Shea Weber and Tomas Plekanec all wear an ‘A’ (it should be noted that Price is also considered a large part of the leadership group). Montreal is an organization that tends to nurture its youth slowly and let the veterans run the ship so it’s a testament to Gallagher that he is seen as a leader on the Habs.

While fans and media don’t fully know what goes on in the locker room when the cameras are off, it’s easy to see how much of a leader Gallagher is on the ice. Consistent effort, not giving up on plays and never pouting on the bench, his effort is even more noticeable when the others aren’t pulling their weight.

Follow His Lead

If the rest of the team could consistently equal Gallagher’s work ethic every night, it would be a much different looking club out there. Considering what he brings to the table, his contract (a $3.75 million cap hit) is a bit of a bargain at this point. The Habs clearly missed him during his injuries and now that he is back to his old self, Gallagher is a legitimate threat to score 20 goals this season for the first time since 2014-15. Gallagher shows up to play every night — now it’s time for everyone else to do the same.