You have to be quite the super-human force to be captain of the Montreal Canadiens.
Wearing the captain’s C in the NHL is a big deal, no matter what team you play for. But when you’re counted on to be the leader of the Canadiens, the most storied franchise in hockey history, it’s a whole different level of pressure.
And Max Pacioretty is doing a damn good job in his first season in charge.
If you revert back to the start of the season, many people had different opinions about the New Canaan, Connecticut native. During Montreal’s incredible 9-0-1 start to this season, Pacioretty managed just two goals and seven points in a 10-game span.
— Canadiens Montréal (@CanadiensMTL) December 12, 2016
For most players, that’s great. At that rate, he’d be on pace for 56 points, which would be fantastic for a good majority of the team. But seeing as that would have been the worst full-season numbers of his career, they weren’t numbers Habs fans, or even Pacioretty, would have been pleased with.
Canadiens fans across the internet wanted him gone quicker than Seregi Samsonov’s entire career at the Bell Centre.
But now, Pacioretty is once again proving to be Montreal’s best forward, perhaps even stealing the spotlight from Carey Price for the first time in his career. In the two months following November 12th, Pacioretty was able to tie Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter for the NHL lead in goals in that span with 17 markers, something nobody expected after the month of October.
When many of the injuries began inflicting the Canadiens early on, Pacioretty skipped sitting out all of November despite playing with a micro-fracture. Once fans found that out, they surely backed off of bashing him every night and looked like a hero worthy of wearing the C on his chest.
Offensively, he started off weaker, that’s no question. But once the likes of Brendan Gallagher, Alex Galchenyuk (Montreal’s top scorer at the time and top five in the entire league), Andrew Shaw and Andrei Markov got injured, Pacioretty was able to turn his play around and has been Montreal’s best player ever since.
The American scoring star potted ten goals in December after putting in just five in October and November combined. With his strong month to finish 2016, Pacioretty was able to outperform both Tomas Plekanec and Alex Radulov by quite a bit in the points/60 minutes stat, and trails just Paul Byron on the Habs for players who have played in at least 30 games this year.
Yes, for his standards, it looked like his season started off slowly. But at the halfway point, he’s actually on pace for 70 points, the best of his career.
With 35 points in 42 games this year, the “mediocre” (as some people were calling him early in the year) star winger leads all Canadiens in scoring. Would he be if Galchenyuk was still in the lineup? Maybe not, Galchenyuk had an extremely explosive start. But the fact that he turned around his play as soon as the other big names went down with injuries has proven that he’s clutch, whether you believe in the term or not.
A big question going forward will be whether or not he can continue his strong start once the team is fully healed again. And while it’s tough to figure that out just yet, it would only make sense that he would. There’s a reason he’s worth the $4.5M deal he’s on, which looks like an extreme bargain when juxtaposed against other comparables (Ovechkin, Pavelski). It’s because he’s one of the best players Montreal has had in a very long time.
Not all heroes wear capes. Some just represent their value with a single letter.