Brendan Gallagher knows how Rafaël Harvey-Pinard feels and that has value for the Canadians

MONTREAL — As center Bell roared and caps rained on the ice, Rafael Harvey Benard sat on the Canadian bench, basking in his first career NHL hat-trick amid an 8-2 rally Saturday over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The indoor camera was fixed on him, and his bright smile was lighting up the scoreboard.

To his right was Brendan Gallagher.

“You have to stand up,” he said to Harvey Benard with a devilish grin, as the crowd roared loudly. “stand up.”

The rookie didn’t.

“He wanted me to come off the bench to really appreciate the moment, but there was still time left in the game, I didn’t want to overdo it,” Harvey Benard said. “So I decided to stay on the bench.”

This was Gallagher having a bit of fun at The Apprentice’s expense, trying to capitalize on a situation he’s all too familiar with because he went through the same thing as a Apprentice 10 years ago.

“I always try to get the guy, but he’s smarter than that,” Gallagher said. “Men don’t listen to me when I talk to them. That would have been funny.”

Gallagher continued his conversation, cheering on the player who was dubbed “Lavallagher” by fans due to how similar he was to Gallagher while he played in the AHL at Laval, making sure he drenched everything.

Because Gallagher has had these moments, and he knows how important they are because he hasn’t had a lot of them lately.

Fittingly, the only thing preventing Harvey-Pinard from getting a natural hat-trick was Gallagher’s goal between his second and third goals that night. When the puck entered, with Gallagher converting a Jake Evans feed in front of the net, the place where Gallagher scored many of his 199 career goals, he looked relieved.

That’s because Gallagher is at a different time in his career than Harvey-Pinard, where his value can’t be measured solely in goals and assists. Harvey Benard’s third goal was his 12th of the season, placing him ninth among rookies in the NHL despite only playing 29 games this season, and placing him leading the league in goals per game by a rookie.

Gallagher’s goal was the twelfth of his goals The past two seasons combined84 games in total.

This was a good night for Gallagher. Not only did he score, he also had moments when he looked like his old self – something not seen very often during two injury-plagued seasons. But it was great A night for Harvey-Benard, someone who was dismissed as often as Gallagher was a young player for many of the same reasons as Gallagher – not old enough, not fast enough, not skillful enough. But the heart and work ethic are there to compensate, just as they were with Gallagher.

“I hope he enjoyed the moment,” Gallagher said. “He had some family, he had some friends here. It’s such a special moment. He grew up watching this team, to see them smile, it was great to be a part of it.”

And sharing that moment with Gallagher meant something to Harvey Benard. When Gallagher played his first NHL game on January 22, 2013, Harvey-Pinard had turned 14 two weeks earlier. Seeing Gallagher make it was an effect on him because he grew up watching and watching this team and seeing himself in Gallagher.

“He’s a player I’ve watched play for a long time, so when he says that to me, it’s a beautiful moment,” said Harvey Benard. “I will remember that for the rest of my life.”

Gallagher has a unique vision of what Harvey Benard does. When Harvey-Benard was told to climb into the NHL’s top 10 for goals scored by a rookie, Gallagher pointed out how difficult it was to score goals. He would have known, if only because he made it look as easy as a newbie. Harvey Bennard’s 12 goals in his first 29 matches are remarkably similar to what Gallagher did when he scored 12 goals in his first 36 matches.

“I think he’s going to be a very versatile player,” Gallagher said. “I think he’ll be able to fit in a lot of lines. He checks really well. He’s smart, he’s got a good stick and he likes to hang around the net. When the puck is on his stick, he makes the most of it. Most of his chances end up at the back of the net.”

He was talking about Harvey Benard, but Gallagher could easily talk about himself when he was younger. At the time, Gallagher not only fit whatever line he was put on, but he also made that line even better. Players wanted to play with him because he made their lives easier, and that’s exactly what Harvey-Pinard is doing now. He joined Nick Suzuki weeks ago, and there’s a reason for that.

“I think we’ve shown chemistry since we were put together,” said Suzuki. “Marty (St. Louis) loves us together and I love playing with him, he plays the right way, he does all the right things and he goes into the tough areas. He scored a bunch of his goals there, just drives hard and finishes it. He’s a fun player to play with.”

Harvey Benard’s three goals on Saturday totaled 35 feet.

That was Gallagher’s calling card, going into those tricky spots and driving the grid hard and finishing it off. He made a living doing it, and now has four more years ahead of him on a contract that pays him $6.5 million a year for his ability to do it, something Harvey-Pinard can only dream of now. Perhaps that is what makes it easier for Gallagher not to feel threatened by someone like Harvey-Pinard, but Gallagher is a competitive beast, much more competitive than the average NHL player, and it would be easy for him to see Harvey-Pinard as a threat because of how similar they are.

But he doesn’t. He is happy for him. It encourages him to embrace the moment on the bench, trying to get him to stand up to acknowledge the applause he’s been getting because that’s the kind of thing his teammates do.

The Canadiens will have a lot of young players coming into the lineup over the next two or three years, players who may fill the same role as an established player, and Gallagher’s position is valuable on a team like this. It may not be worth $6.5 million, but it’s worth something.

Martin St. Louis was there too, being a veteran who welcomes young players to the team knowing they can one day replace you. Every player goes through it. It’s the circle of NHL life. But not every player accepts that circle or is knowledgeable enough to know their place in that circle. It is important to have players who accept the reality of that circle.

“I think it’s important,” St. Louis said. “We’ve got a lot of these guys who I think have welcomed a lot of young players this year and helped them along the way. I think it takes a lot of empathy and compassion. Like, can you be happy for a guy who’s doing well? That’s a little selfless, which is important.” But also, can you help when a guy is struggling?We have these guys.

“Listen, this was a really fun group for the coach. The guys love each other, and you can see it. We’ve had a lot of guys in and out, and the enthusiasm and the welcoming feeling from these guys has really helped us grow as a team off the ice, but I think more importantly than It’s on the ice. But it starts in the dressing room, for sure.”

Early in the season, St. Louis cited a quote when talking about the contract extension that goaltender Jake Allen had just signed. It was that you need men who are willing to plant trees knowing they will not sit in their shade.

Allen is one of those guys. So is Joel Edmondson, who was relieved to survive the trade deadline and stay on a losing team. So is Chris Weidman, who accepts the fact that younger defensemen will cut him out of the lineup and remains an ideal teammate.

And though he has four years left on his lucrative contract, so does Gallagher, because guaranteed contracts don’t guarantee you a specific role in the team. That’s a win, and few know it better than Gallagher because he went through the same process as Harvey Benard 10 years ago.

He can value a younger version of himself who earns one of these roles through hard work, he can value the process of proving a lot of people wrong and proving people who believed in you right, he can value someone who could reasonably be considered a threat and embrace him as a protégé.

This is valuable.

(Photo by Brendan Gallagher: David Kerouac/USA Today)


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