Galchenyuk, Habs gaining confidence


NEW YORK -- The man who last coached the Montreal Canadiens to a Stanley Cup championship 21 springs ago is watching keenly as this year's squad continues to show timely resolve.

Can the Habs remain perfect in elimination games (3-0 in the playoffs) with Game 6 on tap Thursday night at Madison Square Garden?

Why not, says Jacques Demers, who sees parallels to the 1993 squad.

"As soon as people thought we were done that year, we rose to the occasion," Demers told on Wednesday. "Against the Nordiques in the first round, we were down 0-2. Against the Kings in the finals, people thought we were done after losing the first game at home. Our players always found a way that year.

"Last night, you could tell by looking in the eyes of the Montreal players -- you either see it or you don't -- they were just focused. And the kid [Dustin] Tokarski lets in four goals last night and he still finds a way to win. ... I don't know, I mean, when the puck [shot by Carl Hagelin] hits Tokarski's stick, you start thinking, Is this the way it's going to go this year?"

There's another 1993 flashback for Demers.

"I was thinking last night, wouldn't it be something if we had Montreal versus Los Angeles again? That would be unbelievable. Because I love the way the Kings are playing," Demers said.

Well, let's not put the cart ahead of the horse here. The Rangers are at home Thursday night and Madison Square Garden will be rocking with the Blueshirts in position to book their ticket to the Cup finals.

You know Henrik Lundqvist is going to rebound. His impeccable pedigree suggests as much.

But the Habs are rolling right now. Ever since the start of the third period in Game 4, despite losing that game in OT, Montreal has carried most of the play.

All four forward lines are contributing.

It's no coincidence that the Canadiens began to find more balance in their offensive game once Alex Galchenyuk began feeling like himself again. After missing six weeks with a lower-body injury, the talented 20-year-old forward has gradually elevated his impact with each passing game since his return in Game 2. He scored the OT winner in Game 3; he nearly won Game 4 late in the third period when his shot hit the crossbar; and he opened the scoring in Game 5, a huge goal that set the tone for the night.

In short, he has been everywhere.

"He's played really well," veteran forward Daniel Briere said Wednesday evening after the team arrived in Manhattan. "I think the first game maybe he showed [some rust]. You're showing up in the third round of the playoffs, after missing two months, it's not easy. Actually he's surprised me with how well he's played. The last two games especially, he's been a force. You know, he's so talented. I know he's still very young, but he's so talented that he brings us more zip up front."

Imagine the Habs trading for a top-six forward in the conference finals? That's what it feels like to see Galchenyuk's rising prominence in this series.

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