MONTREAL -- Brendan Gallagher is exactly the type of player every team would love to have come playoff time, a gritty, never-quit worker bee who gets under the skin of the opponent while popping in some big goals.
The Montreal Canadiens winger plays so much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 182-pound frame, which has made him a fan favorite in these parts. He reminds a lot of Habs fans over the age of 40 of former winger Mario Tremblay and the way Tremblay played in the 1970s and '80s for the Canadiens.
The 22-year-old Gallagher, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, posted a career-high 24 goals this season, third on the team. On a club that needs all the goals it can get, his contributions will be more important than ever as the playoffs begin Wednesday night against the Ottawa Senators.
We sat down with Gallagher on Tuesday after practice:
LEBRUN: You play every game like it's the playoffs, with your style of crashing the net and fighting for loose pucks, the abuse that you take. But does that get even dialed up a notch with the playoffs upon us?
GALLAGHER: Yeah, I think so. You know, I've always tried to pride myself on, regardless of the game, I play the same way and I don't change. But there's a little more excitement at playoff time, and certainly at the Bell Centre, it's something else. Now, nothing else matters except getting wins. It doesn't matter how you get them or the style that you play, you just have to find a way to get wins for your team.
LEBRUN: You guys had a very strong season from start to finish, won your division, which not everyone predicted, and your prize for all that is playing the team that went 21-3-3 to end the regular season. I guess there's no easy first-round matchups anymore in this league, eh?
GALLAGHER: Yeah, I think regardless of who we were going to play, it was going to be a top matchup. You're going to get tested and I think that's perfect. I think in the first round you get tested and to have a challenge is good for us. We know it's not going to be easy and they're saying the same thing. I still remember the feeling two years ago losing to Ottawa in the playoffs and what that felt like. You're certainly going to do everything you can do to not have that feeling again.
LEBRUN: That series two years ago against Ottawa, especially given that there wasn't any playoff history between the two teams, maybe surprised some people as far as how emotional it got. And ever since then, the games between both teams have been pretty intense, right?
GALLAGHER: And it's going to be the same way [this year]. That's expected. When you're that close to reaching your goal, guys are going to do whatever it takes. It's not going to be anything different. Guys are ready for that. But also disciplined at the same time. You've got to play with emotion, yes, and that passion, and playing on the edge, but as soon as you cross that line and you're costing your team, you can't afford to do that. So, we need to compete hard but stay disciplined.
LEBRUN: Given Canadiens goalie Carey Price's standout regular season this year, what else do you think he has in store?
GALLAGHER: When you look at what he's done all year, just how consistent he's been game after game, even in a game if he lets in a bad goal, it won't bother him. His mental ability is so good. You look at what he's gone through in his career, he's gained that experience. We all expected him to be our best player this year, but I don't think anyone expected him to be this good.
LEBRUN: If someone from another country who has never watched a hockey game in their life asked you to describe what a playoff game is like at the Bell Centre, how would you answer that?
GALLAGHER: I don't really think you can describe it to him. I remember when I was about to play my first playoff game here, the guys were talking to me and letting me know what it was like. Then you step on the ice and it passes all your expectations. It's an atmosphere you grow up dreaming of. It's what sports are all about. The fans here are so passionate, they get into it so much, it's really cool to play in front of.
At the same time, I'm sure it's tough for opposing teams to come in here. Really look forward to it again. As soon as the puck drops for Game 1, we're going to have to use that crowd.
LEBRUN: What was your favorite playoff moment growing up?
GALLAGHER: Hmm, I was an Oilers fan growing up, I would say it was when they went on their Cup final run in 2006. I was living in Vancouver and every day I would show up at school and my buddies would be razzing me when I was wearing my Oiler jersey. I just remember how many overtime games the Oilers played that year and staying up late to watch them.
I would go to school the next day and fall asleep there because I was so tired. I just couldn't miss a game. It was fun to watch. Unfortunately, they lost [in Game 7 of the Cup finals to the Carolina Hurricanes]. And I never got to see an Oilers playoff game after that. They haven't been back.
LEBRUN: Can you imagine what it would be like to help deliver a Stanley Cup to Montreal for the first time since 1993?
GALLAGHER: Well, you saw the excitement last year from round to round, after we beat Boston I thought that was a pretty big excitement level for a city to go to. And that was only Round 2. So I can't imagine what bringing a Cup home would feel like, but it's something we certainly want to live out.