HabsAddict would like to welcome Oliver Fisher to the family.
Oliver is a young Habs fan the United Kingdom. He fell in love with the Habs when he got his first hockey jersey in 2007 which donned the famous ‘CH’, and has been a fan ever since. Hasn’t yet had the fortune of making it out to the Bell Centre, but will definitely one day.
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Max Pacioretty, the Canadiens 6’2”, 24 year old left winger, was helped off the ice on Tuesday night against Winnipeg. A lot of people were worried, which got me thinking, how big is Max Pacioretty to the Canadiens and how much would a long term injury affect us?
Starting with a little back-story, Pacioretty was picked up in the 2007 entry draft by Montreal as the 22nd pick overall, having previously played for Michigan. He made his NHL debut in 2009, in which he scored from his first ever shot when we lost to the New Jersey Devils on the 2nd of January. Pacioretty was our leading point scorer in the 2011-12 season, finishing with 65 points in 79 games in a year in which he won the Bill Masterton Trophy. This managed to get him a six year, $27million contract extension which he will feel he deserved.
The first player to wear #67 for the Canadiens, Max Pacioretty is quite clearly an outstanding player. Technically, he is as good a shooter of the puck as most other wingers in the league. His puck placement and ability to simply fire the puck past helpless goalies’ is, while expected you might say, quite simply mesmerising at times. Although not the most mobile and agile player we’ve ever seen, he is also incredibly skilful with very good puck handling skills and a quick release on both passing and shooting. His size as a winger allows him to be a real asset to any team and an impact player on both sides of the puck. Mentally, his ability to read the game has been a very nice surprise on the offensive side of the game, and his ability to win face-offs generally means he has a good skill set.
However, before this turns into a very one sided article, there are some things that I feel he could do a little better. Defensively, he has a tendency to become lethargic and slow to react particularly when anticipating passes or blocking shots, but sometimes it isn’t all his fault. It would be nice to see him react a little better to loose pucks all of the time, and be just more aware in general. His shooting isn’t consistent yet either, but he has the timing and the wrist power to do some real damage, so he needs to make sure he uses it all of the time. Injuries have been a problem also, which some people would blame on the players that hit him, but the fact remains he gets laid out in open ice quite a lot. Obviously there was the Chara incident, which still makes me feel physically ill every time I think about it, but sometimes you get the feeling he doesn’t help himself. Nevertheless, his development has been very pleasing to watch and he promises to be a productive impact winger for the Canadiens.
I think some statistics are really needed to back up the point of how important he actually is. 2011-12 has already been mentioned as a breakout year of sorts for Patch in which he managed 33 goals and 32 assists in the 79 games he played at 0.82 points per game. Now that is very good production for a winger in the goals tally, and a decent amount of assists as well, and being above 0.8 points per game is something to be very happy with. On the season, he finished just +2, which is surprising given his production, so does it maybe reveal a little more about who he was on the ice with than him? That is perhaps a debate for another time.
Moving onto 2012-13, Max got 39 points in 44 games which, by my calculations, would mean he was on course to get 58 points with 22 goals and 36 assists at 0.7 points per game. Those are the stats I was expecting Patch to put up when he broke through as a regular for the Habs in terms of goals to assists ratio.To be fair, he missed four games because of injury which may have eradicated any momentum he was gathering, plus it was a shortened season anyway, but the stats don’t lie and his production did decrease slightly. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on this one though. He obviously has a goal scoring prowess given the skills he possesses, but as a first line left winger (which he has become) it is almost a little worrying that he would score so much. Any goals are good goals as long as he is assisting as well, and given our real lack of a standout first line center it isn’t too surprising he is scoring a lot. In the 2011-12 season he scored 5 game winning goals, but he didn’t manage any in the 44 games he played last year.
So far this year, Patch has 2 goals and 1 assist through 5 games. You obviously can’t read into the stats after 5 games, but he has scored two nice goals this year and was looking fairly confident again to begin the season after a playoff series in which he didn’t manage a single point.
To summarize, I guess its personal judgement whether you think Max Pacioretty is crucial to the Habs. I’m sure most people, like me, will agree that he is a very important player with a bright future. There was a lot of panic when he went down with that injury against the Jets and that should be the telling sign. Whichever way you look at it, he is a fantastic first line winger who has put up some great points numbers that will hopefully be bettered in the future. He has areas of his game to work on, but no player is flawless, and his drive will allow him to work on them and get better as a player. Max isn’t just important, he’s the future.