Wait, 19 goals?
This guy had 19 goals?
That's the part, quite candidly, that's made zero sense for me upon studying Alex Galchenyuk over the past week. He had 19 goals in 72 games in 2018-19 with the Coyotes. He had 19 goals the previous season with the Canadiens. And it's not easy to explain. It's not that he lacks pedigree, having been picked No. 3 overall in the 2012 NHL Draft right here in Pittsburgh. It's not that he lacks hands, having popped 30 for Montreal and owning a career shooting percentage of 12.3. It's not that he doesn't take shots, having rung up 372 the past two seasons.
It's certainly not that he lacks speed or drive:
That took place Feb. 12 in Las Vegas. And yeah, that's Marc-Andre Fleury, who most will recall is pretty fair on breakaways. Doesn't matter. Sure it helps that another old friend, Deryk Engelland, happens to be the last defenseman doing the chasing, but that's still some sizable separation while also having to corral the puck with one hand. And what Galchenyuk does to Fleury's poke attempt would've been a crime anywhere but Nevada.
But never mind that, and focus completely on his face smashing into the left bar in the process. He wasn't slowing down out of any fear.
This guy had 19 goals?
The hands are softer than a rain-soaked roll of Charmin ...
... both on the reception of Clayton Keller's pass and on the one-touch deposit behind the Sharks' Aaron Dell.
And the hands were all the more evident in a couple devastating penalty shots.
Here's Dell crying:
And here's the Oilers' Mikko Koskinen winding his watch:
Pause for a second here, please. Go right back and watch both of those penalty shots again, except this time watch nothing but Dell and Koskinen.
That player, my friends, has no business scoring a single goal less than 30, never mind 20. And yet:
Sorry, I know Galchenyuk's been on mostly bad teams. Only 28 Stanley Cup playoff games in seven NHL seasons -- four goals and nine assists in those, by the way -- don't lie. I also know he's had issues, often vocally, with being bumped away from his preferred position at center. And that he hasn't always had A-list linemates.
But when you're bringing weapons like his to the ice, something's amiss individually.
The lazy approach I could take is to suggest he'll be the next Alexei Kovalev, Robert Lang, James Neal or Justin Schultz to magically blossom in Pittsburgh, as if sprinkled in black-and-gold pixie dust could do it. But as was the case with all four of those players and so many others the past three decades, there's so much more to it.
I mean, sure, if he skates alongside some revived/advanced version of Evgeni Malkin -- and that's my bet for the line of choice -- he'll have a higher-caliber of support. But even offensively, he'll need to play a much more up-and-down, rod-hockey brand on the wing for it to work. Malkin's always needed that to his left, from Ruslan Fedotenko to Pascal Dupuis to Carl Hagelin. It's an offset for all the east-west Malkin does naturally.
If Galchenyuk can't do that, he'll be dropped to a third or even fourth line, at which point all bets are off for even 20 goals.
There's a bigger issue, though: He needs to fare far better in the defensive zone, including zone exits and bringing the puck safely/smartly up ice. That'll be tomorrow's entry, and I can promise it won't be anywhere near as flattering as this one.
But hey, let's close this one out right:
My goodness. That was Feb. 28 in Vancouver, and the names of all the Canucks scorched on this sequence are being withheld until next of kin are notified.
This guy had 19 goals.
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