BOSTON – Calling it gut-check time, Montreal sniper Max Pacioretty says he has to be better against the Bruins.
The winger acknowledged he has been outplayed by Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara while failing to find the net in the first four games of their second-round playoff series.
“I’m battling hard. I’m maybe gripping my stick a little tight,” Pacioretty said after the morning skate Saturday. “That’s what comes with playing here in this environment. I’ve got to be relied upon, I’ve got to be relied upon to score important goals and I haven’t done that yet.
“I’ve just got to keep playing the way I have been and maybe just calm down a bit”
Pacioretty led the Habs in goals (39) and points (60) this season. But in the playoffs he is tied for 10th in team scoring, with linemate David Desharnais and defenceman Mike Weaver with one goal and two assists in eight games.
Against the Bruins, he has just one assist and no goals from 13 shots.
“I’ve got to find ways to score goals. I haven’t done that,” he said ahead of Game 5 Saturday night.
On Friday, Canadiens coach Michel Therrien—without naming names—said he wanted more from his top scorers, saying they needed to adapt to the challenge of the playoffs.
On Saturday, he was gentler—saying goal-scorers put a lot of pressure on themselves.
“He’s got to make sure that he’s focusing on the positive and make sure he’s got a good attitude,” Therrien said of Pacioretty. “You know eventually this is going to turn round. Hopefully it’s going to be tonight, because when this guy starts to get hot, he gets really hot.”
“We’re counting on him,” he added. “He’s a big part of the team’s success. And it’s a centre stage for guys like that tonight to bring their ‘A’ game.”
Both teams’ first lines have fizzled in this series. Boston’s top trio of Milan Lucic, David Krejci and Jarome Iginla has also yet to reach liftoff.
Pacioretty, who has not spoken much during his playoff slump, tried to see the positives.
The Canadiens are tied with the best team during the regular season. And he says he is contributing other ways, such as forechecking and hitting the Bruins.
He has also been a recipient of physical play.
Pacioretty said he was healthy despite being crumpled into the glass in Game 4 by Bruins forward Jarome Iginla. Asked what part of his body, head or shoulder, took the impact of the hit, he resorted to hockey-speak.
“Upper body,” he said, drawing laughs.
Pacioretty acknowledged Chara had been a huge presence in the series.
“First four games, I’ll give him the edge. He definitely was the better of the two players, but I can just worry about the future. There’s three games left for me to prove myself. And this is real gut-check time.”
NOTES—Saturday marked the 44th anniversary of Bobby Orr’s Cup-winning goal for Boston against the St. Louis Blues. The image of a horizontal Orr flying through the air, his arms raised in victory is immortalized by a statue outside the TD Garden.