Max Pacioretty will have to wait at least another year to get his time in the all-star spotlight.
The Montreal Canadiens captain was left off this year’s all-star roster despite being one of the league’s most consistent scoring threats. He built a strong case for this month’s event in Los Angeles, right there (yet again) among the league leaders with 19 goals and hotter than anyone since the middle of November.
The 28-year-old’s star power still needs a boost, falling well short of his production on the ice. Only three players have scored more goals (173) than the American winger since 2011: Alex Ovechkin (243), Steven Stamkos (202) and Joe Pavelski (178).
His 129 even-strength markers are bettered only by superstars Ovechkin (139) and Stamkos (139).
“I don’t know about (the media), but we don’t (take him for granted),” Canadiens head coach Michel Therrien said recently. “We appreciate what he’s capable (of doing). The last two months he’s been phenomenal with us.”
After a slow start – just two goals in the first 14 games – Pacioretty has been scorching hot. He’s tied with Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter for the NHL lead in goals since Nov. 12 with 17. He notched four in three games last week, including back-to-back overtime winners, the second one giving him the franchise lead in OT markers.
His 38 winning goals over the past five-plus seasons trail only Ovechkin’s 42.
Therrien raved about his play, pointing to his “passion” in particular, and positive influence on the dressing room of the division-leading Canadiens.
“He wants to make a difference every game,” Therrien said of Pacioretty, on pace to hit 38 goals and establish a new career-best with 68 points. “And he’s doing a hell of a job for us.”
Teammate Mark Barberio thought Pacioretty’s consistency as a scorer – in an era when goals continue to trend downward and goalies get bigger and better – was underrated.
In fact, Pacioretty has been one of the league’s most consistent scoring threats, one of only four players to hit 30 goals in each of the previous four full seasons – the others being Ovechkin, Pavelski and the Ducks’ Corey Perry.
Yet, he’s rarely in the conversation.
He has probably been overshadowed by star teammates Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Alex Radulov. He’s also never been the best or even second-best player on his team and his game lacks the sizzle of Ovechkin or Stamkos.
While he may not be flashy, Pacioretty is highly effective.
Formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Barberio joined the Habs last year and was struck by the quickness of his new teammate’s release, describing his shot as “world-class”.
“He’s deceptive,” said Barberio. “And when he brings it to the net he brings it with a lot of force and I think that’s what surprises goalies the most.”
“Not everybody has a shot like that,” he added. “There’s (only) a few guys in the league that can just beat a goalie clean one-on-one and he’s definitely one of them. We’re lucky to have him.”
Pacioretty’s wrist shot, in particular, has been the NHL’s most lethal over the past six seasons. He tops all players with 111 goals on his wrist shot in that span, trailing only the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko and Jets’ Mark Scheifele with 12 this year.
Pacioretty doesn’t just score either. Underlying numbers suggest he’s one of the more effective penalty-killing forwards in the NHL, albeit in a secondary role. He’s also one of Montreal’s top puck possession players (53.8 per cent), a long six-foot-two, 215-pound winger who’s spent the year with a variety of linemates amid injuries for the Habs.
Only one Atlantic Division forward, Toronto’s Auston Matthews, has more goals than Pacioretty so far and, heading into Tuesday’s play, only three had more than his 34 points (Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Matthews).
But it was not enough to earn him a first-time all-star nod with Price and Weber both garnering spots for Montreal.
“Maybe he flies under the radar but not in this room,” Barberio said. “We know what he brings.”Report Typo/Error