By Dustin Kagan-Fleming
Alex Galchenyuk is finally seeing the results that he’s been fighting for. He’s on a 5 game point streak in which he’s amassed 7 points (5 goals and 2 assists) and has honestly look like the most dominant forward for several games. So what’s caused this? Galchenyuk has been a bit of a streaky player in past years. Is he simply going on a good one for a bit? I think it’s more complicated than that. Galchenyuk has been playing better hockey, that’s not in question. However, I’ve got to say, to me it looked like he was going out there and playing good hockey but there was something stopping his good hockey from producing as it should have. I didn’t want to believe that this was the case but I’ve had to admit that removing Semin from Galchenyuk’s wing and putting rookie call up Sven Adrighetto has been a real game changer.
Galchenyuk was letting Semin affect his play too much and while Semin can’t be blamed entirely for Galchenyuk’s lack of production, the results speak for themselves. Semin was not letting Galchenyuk use his speed (that fans saw on display on his beautiful breakaway goal against New Jersey), forcing offsides and not allowing plays to develop through either lagging behind the play or forcing awkward zone entries. Eller provided what Galchenyuk needed as one of his wingers, a capable forward who can drive possession and play soundly of defense while picking up on plays that are started by Galchenyuk. Semin tended to coast at times and often made it feel like the line had to play on the penalty kill with him being next to invisible. He wasted his incredible shots (missing the net most of the time when he bothered to shoot), didn’t win or even start battles in his own zone and just didn’t live up to what many, including myself, hoped he would be.
Now on the flip side, you have Andrighetto who I have been a big fan of since he came up for a short stint last year. It seems that he has done nothing but improve with his time in the minors. He’s fighting hard to earn a regular roster spot right now. The one thing that is so impressive about his play is just how fast he is. One thing that rookies often have trouble adjusting to is the speed of the game. Not just how fast players are but how fast the game itself moves and the split second decisions that have to be made. So far Andrighetto has shown himself to be very capable in both ways. He’s winning battles against veterans, moving the puck incredibly well and hitting like a much bigger player than he is. This is the kind of player that Galchenyuk’s been in need of. He doesn’t need a grinder to make space for him and wait at the net for rebounds. Galchenyuk knows how to make his own space with his stick work and speed. Eller’s proven to be great at picking up second chances and frankly Galchenyuk can handle rebounds very well too. What’s been missing has been a fast, smooth skating winger who can shoot well. Galchenyuk can take advantage of Andrighetto’s speed and actually get to use some of his play making skills instead of carrying the burden of the sniper and playmaker on his own. Andrighetto also provides a player who can win offensive zone battles. His speed and strength lend themselves perfectly to Eller and Gelchenyuk’s forecheck and the three are now insanely dangerous for an opponent in the offensive zone. Andrighetto also frees Galchenyuk and Eller up defensively as not only does he work on the backcheck but he’s capable of doing it well. As much as Semin had been making attempts to improve his defensive game, he tended to be beaten with speed and draw penalties out of desperation. Now the Galchenyuk line is one of puck possession and quick movement. It’s a dynamic offensive line that’s responsible defensively and can create chances from anywhere on the rush because it has 3 great weapons for forwards. Galchenyuk is finally getting to show off just how good he is and that hard work matched with skill can breed incredible results in this league. Watch for some incredible play as long as this line continues together.