Max Pacioretty ended a seven game slump when he scored his season’s 20th goal Sunday afternoon against Carolina. It was what we used to consider classic Pacioretty, a timely whistling snapshot into the top corner of the net to tie the game paving the way for the Canadiens shootout win.
This looked like it was going to be a banner year for Pacioretty. He was coming off a 37 goal season. In August he was named Canadiens captain. Despite missing all of training camp because of that summer time leg injury, with seven goals he was the major contributer to the record 9-0-0 season start to the season. Everyone was already talking about the inevitability of his first forty goal season and fifty didn’t seem to be outside of the realm of possibility.
Those were the days. Now all but forgotten.
In the 46 games since his seven goal start, Pacioretty has added only 13. While that’s troublesome, it’s the way the goals were scored that is real cause for concern. Over his last four seasons, armed with a quick release and a hard accurate snapshot, Paciorettyhad a well earned reputation as one of the league top snipers. Over the last three a half months we’ve seen little of that.
Quantity of shots is still there, but the timing and quality have been second rate. As a result his offense has been predictable and he has been reduced to the kind of prolonged scoring slumps we might expect from a third or fourth line left wing. He followed seven goals in the first nine games with one in the next ten. There was another stretch of one goal in twelve games plus that recent seven game slump leading to Sunday’s 20th.
But there’s more. Of his 20 total goals, there are seven on the power play, three into an empty net and one shorthanded, meaning he has scored 9 goals 5-on-5 this season. That matches the five-on-five season goal totals of Dale Weise and Tomas Fleischmann. Worse, over the last 46 games he has only five at even-strength and not once in that stretch has he scored more than one goal in any game.
Are we dealing with cause and effect? Is the desertion of his scoring touch the reason for the overall state of the Canadiens, or is he just part of a total disaster.
Are the pressures of being captain of the Canadiens too much to bear?
Is there a spillover from the off season injury and the lack of training camp?
Is he hiding a long term injury?
Some think he may be sulking over that six year contract he signed in 2012 which, at 4.5 million a year is well below market value and will not expire until the end of the 2018-19 season. I’m sure the contract enters his mind from time-to-time but he has always behaved like a professional and the idea of letting his teammates down because of contract dissatisfaction seems farfetched.
All questions without answers but, in honesty, what we are seeing is probably a perfect storm of all or most of the above working toward a season to forget.