Max Pacioretty led the Montreal Canadiens in goals and points in the regular season, and will have to return to the top of their scoring list if the Habs are going to have any chance of becoming Atlantic Division champions and advancing past the Boston Bruins in the NHL playoffs.
The big American winger set a new career high with 39 goals and reached the 60 point plateau for just the second time in his NHL career. His 39 goals trailed only Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Joe Pavelski in the regular season, but in six playoff games, Max has just one goal for the Habs.
It should come as no surprise that Pacioretty’s only goal was the series clinching goal late in game four against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He led the league in game winners with 11 during the regular season.
Going back to the final few games of the regular season, Pacioretty has just one goal in his past nine contests. Sure, it was the first series clinching goal anyone has scored in a Habs sweater in four years, but more is expected of the former first round pick.
Pacioretty has been a streaky player all season for the Canadiens, starting the year with just four points in 12 games, but then caught fire and scored nine goals in the next nine games.
Max followed up that hot stretch with a cool five points in his next 10 games before scoring 11 points in a nine game stretch. Pacioretty was then shut out in five of his next seven contests but then went on a lengthy scoring binge, putting up 27 points in 23 games.
Since then, Max has just one goal, two assists and three points in nine games.
Pacioretty played very well against the Lightning in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but had a difficult time converting on his excellent scoring chances.
He finally broke through on a power play with just 43 seconds remaining in game four, giving the Habs a 4-3 victory and sending them into the second round of the postseason. However, since the puck dropped on the playoffs, Pacioretty has one goal and three points, which ranks 8th on the Habs roster.
Playing on a line with David Desharnais and Thomas Vanek late in the season, Pacioretty used his speed, size and shot to be a catalyst for offense on one of the hottest lines in the league. The trio combined for 46 points in 16 games down the stretch, and created several great scoring chances every period.
This has not been the case in the opening two games against the Boston Bruins. Pacioretty has one assist in the series, and Vanek tipped in a pair of power play goals in game two, but they have not been able to carry the pace of play at 5 on 5.
In fact, the Habs have been outshot 19-10 when Pacioretty was has been on the ice at even strength against the Bruins.
If this trend continues, the Canadiens have no chance at defeating their rivals in this second round series.
Pacioretty has run hot and cold all season long, and he is currently in one of his dry spells. If Max has one more hot streak left in him, and he gets the Habs top line producing at 5 on 5 once again, the Canadiens stack up much more favorably against the deep Bruins team.
It is no secret in Montreal that as Pacioretty goes, so does Desharnais. The Habs playoff fortunes lean on the aforementioned offensive pair going past Brian Gionta and Rene Bourque in points for the Canadiens this postseason.