Slump – (slʌmp)  n. A period during which a person performancs slowly, inefficiently or ineffectively. Especially a poeriod during which an athlete or team fails to play or score as well as usual.

 

boston fiveI suppose you’ve noted that, after scoring one goal in his previous twelve games dating back to the regular season, Max Pacioretty produced two in his past two games including the series winner against the Bruins on Sunday.

Does that mean his slump is over? All indications seem to point that way.

Pacioretty reminds me of Steve Shutt, another high scoring Canadiens left winger with a penchant for prolonged scoring droughts.

Like Pacioretty, Shutt was capable of carrying the team on his shoulders when he his scoring touch was present which it was more often than not, witness his record breaking sixty goal season and his Hall of Fame 400-plus career goals.

Streakiness is not an unknown affliction among the NHL’s goalscoring elite.   During the season Pacioretty had two seven game goal droughts and another of five games.   In another stretrch he scored only two over ten games.

Nobody can tell us definitively why athletes, or for that matter teams, go into prolonged dry spells.  They just do.  And the players, coaches and fans have learned to just ride it out.

Pacioretty started the playoffs goalless in the final three games of the season and  that carried right into the Tampa series. He scored the series winning goal on a rebound with 42.6 seconds remaining in Game Four but other than that, he was pretty much invisible through the first eight games of the playoffs.

Last week I broke down Pacioretty’s performance through the first four games of the Boston series during which he recorded 13 shots.  That seems impressive but every one of them was what we would call an easily handled “perimeter shot” from outside 20 feet. Seldom was Pacioretty going into  the so-called dirty areas looking for loose pucks or deflections. And, because Pacioretty wasn’t getting into the prime scoring areas, David Desharnais’ passing game went into the tank as well.

In Game Five, which ironically was the Canadiens worst of the playoffs,  Pacioretty started to show signs of returning to the form that made him the league’s fourth highest goalscorer during the regular season. He recorded six shots on Tuukka Rask and on three of them he was right in Rask’s wheelhouse. He didn’t score but it was a preview of what was to come.

David+Desharnais+Max+Pacioretty+1TJ4VivEsknmIn Game Six Pacioretty gave the Canadiens a 2-0 lead on that breakaway and was right at the goalcrease to kick the puck over to Thomas Vanek on the Canadiens third goal.

Two mights later in Game Seven, Pacioretty was in the prime scoring area when David Desharnais stole the puck deep in the Boston end for what eventually was the series-winning goal.

The Canadiens scored seven goals in the last two games of the series, Pacioretty had points on three of them along with six scoring chances and the Desharnais line for the first time in the playoffs was the Canadiens best on the night.

Momentum is a wonderful thing. The Canadiens depended on their bottom three lines to carry them while they were winning six of the first nine games of the series. Without the return to form of Pacioretty and Desharnais it’s hard to imagine the Canadiens advancing to the Eastern Final.