NEW YORK -- Montreal Canadiens forward Alex Galchenyuk is doing his best to put an end to what was a negative storyline that could have affected him and his team going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"To be honest I'm kind of tired of talking about it," Galchenyuk said Monday.
Understandable, but Galchenyuk's demotion to fourth-line wing for the final game of the regular season and the first four periods of the Eastern Conference First Round is not a tired topic yet and may get resurrected multiple times over if Montreal has a long run in the playoffs.
The Canadiens lead the New York Rangers 2-1 in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round series going into Game 4 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports, MSG).
Galchenyuk, the Canadiens third leading scorer in the regular season with 44 points (17 goals, 27 assists) in 61 games, has an assist in each of the past two games, both Montreal wins, playing on a line with Arturri Lehkonen and Andrew Shaw, a skilled rookie and an in-your-face veteran who can score.
"Sometimes you make certain decisions internally that not everybody externally understands," Canadiens coach Claude Julien said. "I think he's had a great attitude. I've said that all along. He's worked hard. He's finding his swagger again."
That was the end result of the mind game Julien played with Galchenyuk at the end of the regular season.
Julien wanted Galchenyuk to buy into the Canadiens' system that features the forwards being aggressive but structured in the defensive zone to create turnovers, generate speed and transition opportunities.
He couched the decision to move Galchenyuk down to the fourth line as a way to get a bona fide scorer on all four of his lines to create balance, but it appears obvious now that Julien did it to get Galchenyuk's attention and to put less pressure on him.
Simply put, even though Julien admires Galchenyuk's skating and his skill as an offensive player, he didn't feel like he was good enough at the time to play a top-nine role for the Canadiens.
"Any player when they compete hard they're that much better," Julien said. "I don't care how much talent people have, when they compete hard that's where that talent shows off even more. I think it's his swagger, it's coming back. He's starting to feel good about himself. Sometimes you got through situations not everybody knows about and you kind of lose your swagger or you lose your confidence for all kinds of different reasons and you allow them to find that again. That's where we're at with him."
Galchenyuk responded to the demotion by scoring the overtime winner in Montreal's regular-season finale against the Detroit Red Wings on April 8. He had four shots on goal on 15 shifts in Game 1 against the Rangers. By the end of the first period in Game 2, when Montreal had a 2-1 lead, Julien had seen enough to move Galchenyuk up to the line with Lehkonen and Shaw.
"In Detroit, he scored the winning goal and had some good chances, that was a positive thing," Julien said. "It wasn't a negative thing. From there on in as a coach you make decisions to bring him back to hopefully where you think he should be."
Galchenyuk insists he never complained or worried about his role on the team. He bounced from center to wing and up and down the lineup under former Canadiens coach Michel Therrien, and it appeared the same thing might be happening under Julien.
This isn't new to him.
"It wasn't a big deal for me," Galchenyuk said. "It's something I didn't pay too much attention to. [The media] talked about it, but I'm coming into the playoffs and trying to help the team win whatever position I've been put in. I think I carry that mindset and I didn't really think about it too much."
Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty said Galchenyuk's spot on the depth chart was never a topic of conversation in the dressing room.
"It's really something I guess for the media] to talk about but it's not something we talk about at all," Pacioretty said. "Our job when we do talk about it is to try to just weather the storm, basically come up here [in front of the media] with a smile and don't overreact. But at the same time when we're in the room it's not even talked about, it's not even thought about."
Pacioretty has thought about Galchenyuk's response since he was moved back up in the lineup.
"I've been really impressed with his last two games," Pacioretty said. "We need him and everyone else on the team to have that same mindset."
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