What to Watch for: Will Canadiens’ Pacioretty get on the board?

Montreal Canadiens coach Claude Julien talks about the play of his captain Max Pacioretty and how he is a consistent player, great leader and is capable of returning to his goal scoring form at any moment.

The Montreal Canadiens are looking to their leader.

While coach Claude Julien defended Max Pacioretty on Wednesday, there’s no denying the Canadiens – and their bench boss – could use a little offence from their captain. Pacioretty has no goals and one assist through four games in the series against the New York Rangers.

Pacioretty and the Canadiens dropped a tough one Tuesday, falling 2-1 at Madison Square Garden. It was an effort classified as a no-show, as the Canadiens allowed the Rangers to even the series.

Will Pacioretty, a five-time 30-plus goal-scorer, finally get going offensively? That’s just one storyline to watch on Thursday.

Stanley Cup Playoffs on Sportsnet NOW
Ready for playoff hockey? Stream every single game of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs with Sportsnet NOW.

vs. Game 5
Series: Tied 2-2
7 p.m. ET, CBC

Max Pacioretty didn’t have a shot on net until Andrew Shaw replaced Alexander Radulov on his line.

Radulov is the Canadiens’ other true offensive dynamo. He and Pacioretty were the only two members of the team to eclipse the 50-point barrier in the regular season, so Julien might want to consider keeping the two apart in order to reinvigorate the offence.

Their production and possession stats do dip when they’re apart, but it still might be worth a try.

vs. Game 4
Series: NSH leads 3-0
8 p.m. ET, Sportsnet 360

Not many – if any – saw this coming a week ago. The Chicago Blackhawks, the team with three Stanley Cups to their credit since 2010, are on the brink of elimination with nary a victory in the bank.

While their plight is shocking, the reason for it is not. It’s hard to win when two goals have been scored in three games. After being shut out twice at home, the Blackhawks opened up a 2-0 advantage in Game 3 only to lose 3-2 in overtime.

Much like in La Belle Province, it would certainly help benefit the Blackhawks if their captain would start producing. Jonathan Toews hasn’t scored in these playoffs, just as he didn’t when Chicago was bounced in the first round a year ago.

“That’s something I’m obviously well aware of and no better moment than a game like (Thursday),” Toews said to Chris Hine of the Chicago Tribune. “I’ve waited long enough. You have to go out there feeling lucky, like you’re going to work for that bounce. I’m just trying to stay patient and smart and do the right things. There’s obviously no more waiting.”

The Hockey PDOcast with Dimitri Filipovic provides entertaining and thoughtful dialogue about the game of hockey with an analytical edge. Not as nerdy as it sounds.

vs. Game 5
Series: PIT leads 3-1
7 p.m. ET, Sportsnet

It’s Pittsburgh’s second chance to send Columbus packing. The Blue Jackets earned a trip back home thanks to a 5-4 home-ice win on Tuesday.

They should probably consider themselves lucky.

The Blue Jackets have never surrendered fewer than three goals in any of their 14 franchise playoff games. With scoring at a premium in the post-season, it’s not hard to understand why they’ve won just three times.

Kyle Quincey did an admirable job in Game 4 filling in for standout rookie defenceman Zach Werenski, who is out for the rest of the playoffs with facial fractures. Quincey had an assist, four hits and four blocked shots in 20:48.

The Blue Jackets are likely going to need a similar effort to keep Pittsburgh’s stars at bay – and their season alive.

vs. Game 5
Series: Tied 2-2
10:30 p.m. ET, Sportsnet

The Edmonton Oilers must have been feeling great about themselves in the series – until they were crushed 7-0 by the San Jose Sharks in Game 4.

The good news is that was only one game, the series is tied and the Oilers still have home-ice advantage.

But was it just one game or have the Sharks found the answer to the riddle that had been Cam Talbot?

Talbot allowed five or more goals in a game four times during the regular season. He allowed three goals or less in his next start each time. It was two or less in three of them.

Talbot will probably have to be on his game because the Oilers aren’t generating much offence right now.