It was a welcome sight to see Brendan Gallagher back on his usual line at the Montreal Canadiens’ first practice of the 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs on Saturday in preparation for their much-anticipated first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which gets underway on Thursday.
The Habs’ assistant captain has been out of action since fracturing his thumb in a game against the Edmonton Oilers six weeks ago and the team certainly missed their engine, the player who makes them go.
During his first media availability since suffering his injury, Gallagher explained why the Canadiens will be a tough out for their archrivals from Toronto.
A True Leader and Difference-Maker
Gallagher’s return means that Montreal’s most dominant line over the past few seasons has been reunited. Phillip Danault, Gallagher and Tomas Tatar will be major contributors to the Canadiens’ success or failure during this first-round series.
Against the Maple Leafs, the trio will be counted on to defend Toronto’s top line of Zach Hyman, Mitch Marner and Auston Matthews. They’ll also need to contribute offensively if the Habs hope to pull off the upset. They were just catching fire when Gallagher went down with so the Canadiens will be hoping that their chemistry is rekindled quickly.
Having Gallagher back healthy is huge for Montreal. He is the team’s heart and soul, the guy who sets the tone on the ice and brings his teammates into the fight. He gives everything he has on every shift and makes life difficult for his opponents. Needless to say, the Canadiens are a much better team with him in the lineup.
In addition to praising the dynamic of his team heading into the postseason, Gallagher also gave a great answer in response to a question about the lack of Quebec-born players on the Habs’ current roster which has been a hot topic since Montreal recently iced a team that featured zero Quebecers for the first time in a century.
Carey Price Is Feeling Good Too
Speaking of welcome returns, Carey Price is also back at practice after suffering a concussion a few weeks ago. The Habs’ star goaltender is expected to start Game 1 and appears to already be in playoff form.
Along with Gallagher, he will be a major key for the Canadiens against the firepower of the Maple Leafs. If he can be the same dominant netminder he was in last season’s playoff bubble, anything is possible for the Habs who are a better team than they were in 2019-20. As no. 11 aptly put it: “We have the best goaltender in the world.”
The forced injury layoff will probably be a blessing in disguise for Price. He actually appeared in four less games than his backup Jake Allen in the regular season and he looks notably refreshed and rejuvenated which is music to the ears of Habs fans.
The Canadiens have a lot of elements to be successful, it’s just a matter of whether they can put all together to create a winning formula now when it matters most. Led by Gallagher and Price, they are a team built for the playoffs and now it’s time to prove it.