The Canadiens’ major off-season move saw P.K. Subban shipped out to Nashville in exchange for Predators captain Shea Weber, and there have been rumblings that Montreal could be heading towards another major move at some point this season, this including captain Max Pacioretty.
While the rumor may sound far-fetched or bizarre, it wasn’t without reason. You see, Pacioretty, 28, was off to one of the slowest starts of his career and through the early part of the season he looked as though he was a shell of his former goal-scoring self. By the end of October, Pacioretty had just two goals. Come the end of November, he had increased that to just five. All the while, Pacioretty was watching his ice time fluctuate.
Turns out there was more at play than simply a spot of bad shooting luck, however. According to Sportsnet’s Eric Engels, and confirmed by Montreal coach Michel Therrien, Pacioretty spent the entire month of November playing on a broken foot.
It’s near impossible to know exactly when the injury came, especially without Pacioretty outright saying when it occurred, but it’s not hard to believe that the veteran winger was fighting through injury over the course of the past month. Pacioretty has been one of the league’s most consistent goal scorers in the past four seasons.
From the start of the 2012-13 lockout shortened campaign until the culmination of the 2015-16 season, Pacioretty scored 121 goals, good for the ninth most in the league. His .43 goals per game rate over that span is the same as that of Jamie Benn’s and ranked ahead of Sidney Crosby, Rick Nash, James Neal, Vladimir Tarasenko, Evgeni Malkin and you get the point. This season, though, Pacioretty’s five goals through 23 games had his goals rate at roughly half of his rate of the past few seasons.
That has changed in early December, though. Since the calendar turned over, Pacioretty has been one of the hottest scorers in the Montreal lineup and a terror on the ice. In four games, he has a team-leading three goals and four points, no one has put more rubber on net than Pacioretty’s 15 shots and there isn’t a single forward in the lineup seeing more ice time or shifts. He broke out of his November-long slump in a big way, too, with a two-goal, three-point performance against the usually smothering Los Angeles Kings.
If Pacioretty is fully healed, and his recent performance seems to indicate as such, don’t expect those trade rumors to keep gathering much, or any, steam. Finding his form from past seasons makes him one of the best weapons in the Canadiens’ lineup and a potential game breaker as the season wears on.
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