It’s November 13th and the next goal Alex Galchenyuk scores will be the first in a Penguins jersey. He’s missed time to injury, but has but one assist (a secondary one coming off a fairly routine up ice pass) in six games since returning.
That’s not gone unnoticed by his head coach, known for very rarely offering even the slightest of negative critiques in public.
“He’s just got to be more focused on just playing the game the right way,” Mike Sullivan said after Tuesday night’s game. “Competing on pucks, winning puck battles, being strong on the wall, all the details of the game. If a goal scorer struggles, just based on my experience, part of it is is taking the focus off of the scoring and just trying to focus on what you can control. That’s just how you play the game, how you think the game, how hard you compete on pucks. Just being focused on that next play, then I think that goal will come.”
Ice time has been an issue, Galchenyuk’s averaged just 13:38 since returning from injury. Then again, Jared McCann has played 13:23 in the same stretch and has put up seven points in the last six games.
Injury has been a big deal too. Galchenyuk missed the last week of training camp with what’s believed to have been a nagging groin injury. He gutted out the first three games of the season before needing to take three weeks off, a potentially derailing type of injury that Sullivan can understand.
“It’s unfortunate that he got hurt and anytime guys get hurt early in the year, they get behind. But I like how he’s working at it. He’s got to keep working on things and get a break here. He needs to do what he does best, start to score some goals. In some of these games, he’s changed his game. Like in the Rangers game, he’s passing some times when he’s got good opportunities to shoot. He’s just got to keep working at it. Hopefully, they start going in.”
And, then again Bryan Rust got hurt and missed the first 10 games of the season and he didn’t have any issues starting out his season strongly.
Either way, especially with Sidney Crosby and Patric Hornqvist down up front, the Pens need Galchenyuk to get off the schneid. Those injuries open up a spot on the first power play, where Galchenyuk now finds himself in a perfect chance to get better looks at the net.
There’s other areas clearly illustrated where Galchenyuk can improve from as well. From Charting Hockey:
An average shot distance of 33.18 feet is probably a factor of why Sullivan repeats words like “focus” and “compete”. That doesn’t indicate a winger that’s going to the net and shooting from in tight. For instance, winger Jake Guentzel has 73 SOG from an average distance of 24.12 feet. Bryan Rust is at 22.03. Anytime a winger, especially a skilled winger, is at 30+, that’s a sign he’s not going to the net enough and not battling to the tough areas. So that could be one area to watch and hope for that Galchenyuk will work to get to better scoring areas and shoot from them.