It’s fair to say Montreal’s four-time 30-goal scorer Max Pacioretty has gotten off to a slow start to the season. Through his first 23 games, Pacioretty had just five goals after scoring a combined 106 over the past three seasons. Naturally, this led many people to criticize the captain’s play — and even had some contemplating a world where the Habs traded Pacioretty.
The Canadiens cruised over the first two months of the year, but imagine what they’d be if their best goal scorer was on top of his game. Was he struggling to score because, at 28, he’s already peaked, or is there something else at play here?
According to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, Pacioretty was playing with a broken foot through the month of November that it is now fully healed.
“Max Pacioretty through most of November was playing with a broken foot,” Engels reported. “And I approached Pacioretty with this today and he was very reluctant to admit he was playing with a broken foot. He didn’t want to use it as an excuse.
“He’s a guy who’s always under criticism for not being tough enough, he’s a pretty tough guy and I think he’s poised for a break out. We saw it in Los Angeles he was playing great, we saw it coming back to Montreal with this first period. I think he’s poised to score.”
Pacioretty missed practice on November 7 for therapy, which was an uncharacteristic move and left some wondering if there was an issue with his health. With the devastating injuries to David Desharnais and Alex Galchenyuk, and now Greg Pateryn down for two months, the Habs would have been in deep trouble if Pacioretty had to miss significant time.
In 14 November games, Pacioretty had just three goals. The assists have still been there, but his dip in goals has been noteworthy. His shots have also been down considerably from last season: in his first 23 games of 2016-17, Pacioretty has 63 shots, in the first 23 games of 2015-16 he had 86. His 12.6% shooting percentage this season is still above his career average of 11%.
If Pacioretty is now fully healthy, the Habs will be getting back one of the better scorers from the left side in the league. And though his shot totals have been down this season, here’s an interesting note: in those first 23 games this year Pacioretty recorded at least three shots just 11 times. So far in three December games, he’s hit that mark each time. And on Sunday, he had a two-goal, three-point effort against the Kings.
It seems Pacioretty, indeed, is in line to break out in a big way and return to his scoring self.