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Habs' gamble on Semin leads to struggles for Galchenyuk line
3 ноября 2015 года. Hickey, Pat. Montreal Gazette

A major part of the Canadiens' success this season has been an offence that's firing on all four cylinders.

OK, maybe only three.

While coach Michel Therrien has been rolling four lines on a regular basis, one line has been spectacularly mediocre as the Canadiens prepare to the face the Ottawa Senators Tuesday night at the Bell Centre (7:30 p.m., CITY, TSN 5, RDS, TSN Radio 690).

Alex Galchenyuk's long-awaited move to centre has proved difficult and the 21-year-old can't be faulted for the fact that what is supposed to be the No. 2 line is the team's least productive unit. Galchenyuk has been winning faceoffs at a better than 51-per-cent clip and is handling the defensive responsibilities associated with the job, but the line has produced only seven goals.

Quite simply, Marc Bergevin's gamble on Alexander Semin isn't working out and there's a gaping hole on Galchenyuk's right wing.

Semin has been a healthy scratch for the past three games. One problem has been his inability to keep up with linemates Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. But the biggest concern is that Semin, who has been a 20-goal scorer for all but one season of his career, hasn't been shooting.

He has played a regular shift and had time on the power play, where speed is less of a factor, but has produced only one goal on 14 shots over 10 games.

The right wing is being filled by Brian Flynn, who has speed and grit but not the type of scoring touch needed to complement his linemates.

Therrien insists that he doesn't see his lines in terms of numbers and the third line illustrates the reality of this view because it has become the de facto No. 2 line. Dale Weise, David Desharnais and Tomas Fleischmann produced six of the 11 goals in the Canadiens' most recent wins over Calgary and Winnipeg.

All three of these players have shown the ability to play a top-six role, but there's an understandable reluctance to mess with the chemistry on this line.

Therrien could try moving Semin to Tomas Plekanec's line with Max Pacioretty. That would enable him to reunite the EGG line with Brendan Gallagher rejoining Galchenyuk.

The offence has been impressive this season with 50 goals in 13 games. That's an average of 3.85 goals a game and the only team ahead of them is Boston at 3.9 goals a game.

The Canadiens have allowed only 1.85 goals a game to rank third in the NHL. The New York Rangers lead the pack with a 1.82 GAA. The Canadiens' goal differential is plus-26; the next best is Washington at plus-11.

Carey Price, who was named the NHL's second star for October, is on the injured-reserve list with a lower-body injury, but rookie backup Mike Condon is not only 4-0 but he also leads the NHL in goals-against average (1.51) and save percentage (.944).

The Canadiens held Winnipeg to 19 shots on Sunday night, but Therrien insisted that he didn't change the game plan to take any pressure offCondon.

One major surprise has been the power play. The naysayers questioned the decision to put the unit in the hands of former defenceman J.J. Daigneault with some help from consultant Craig Ramsay, a veteran coach who was better known for his defence in his playing days. But the power play has produced seven goals in 19 opportunities during the past seven games and ranks sixth in the NHL with a success rate of 23.4 per cent. Throw in a penalty-killing unit that ranks third in the league and the special teams are in great shape.

In fact, the PK has been better in the past two games with the addition of Paul Byron, who has two short-handed goals.

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