Is Alex Galchenyuk Ready to Break out in the Playoffs?

At 3:40 into the overtime period, the Bell Centre exploded as a spin around shot from Habs forward Alex Galchenyuk found its way through Ottawa Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond to give the Montreal Canadiens the win and a 2-0 series lead. Galchenyuk has points in both games so far in the series and 8 points in 12 career playoff games. Fans have been waiting for Galchenyuk’s breakout since he entered the NHL as an 18-year-old rookie back in 2013. Are the 2015 NHL playoffs going to be his coming out party?

(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
(Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)

Development in question

Galchenyuk’s development has been a source of constant debate. His playing the wing rather than his natural centre position as well as his deployment on the ice has caused a lot of hand wringing and worry that the Habs are ruining their prized young forward. What makes these playoffs so intriguing for the youngster is his role in them.

As a rookie in 2013, he didn’t play much as the Senators dismantled Montreal in five games. Last year, he was hurt before the playoffs began and didn’t make an appearance until the Eastern conference final vs. the New York Rangers. But this year, he is healthy, has a bigger role and looks more prepared.

It is easy to see why fans can be impatient when it comes to waiting for a player to develop. Young players are coming into the NHL more prepared than ever before and more are putting up bigger numbers right off the bat. But in reality, some players honestly do take longer and unlike most top picks, Galchenyuk went to a team that had a bad year as opposed to one that was rebuilding. On a rebuilding squad, he would have had a lot more ice time and likely would have stayed at centre. Whether that would have been better for his development is hard to say at this point in his career.

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Setting the stage

Young stars will often have a breakout season, a scintillating playoff performance or a turnaround moment in the season where the light bulb has gone off and they finally figure out what it takes to be an NHL star. Galchenyuk has had his moments in his career but hasn’t quite glued it all together just yet. When he was moved to centre temporarily alongside Pacioretty and a nice offensive output emerged, many thought that he was ready to be a star. But the offense dried up and he was put back on the wing.

The line combination of Galchenyuk-Tomas Plekanec-Brendan Gallagher has looked good so far for Montreal. Galchenyuk looks more confident, Plekanec looks re-energized and Gallagher has continued to cause trouble in the blue paint and take a beating for it. They are Montreal’s most balanced line as the line with Max Pacioretty usually includes David Desharnais and whoever they decide to plug in on the right wing.

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Time to break free Alex Galchenyuk

Playoffs can be a fickle beast for players. Some love the pressure of the playoffs while others wilt as the pace ramps up. Galchenyuk has shown to be closer to the former so far. These playoffs are a huge opportunity for him break through and develop further as a player. Playing in pressure packed situations on a good team is a good experience for any player but especially for a young one looking to make his mark. Galchenyuk has all the tools needed to be an NHL star. The stage has been set, now it’s time to perform.