The Habs are having a good season so far. The team has been in the top three of their division since October and have been successful in avoiding slumps, never knowing more than 3 or 4 sub-par games in a row. Playing a really bad game only on occasions.
Sometimes nonchalant, the Canadiens were known to snooze through the first period but were often able to find what it took to come back and get the win. Thanks to their star players.
The Best Players Doing Their Thing
Carey Price has earned a lot of publicity through it all. Acting as the last line of defense, keeping the two points within reach. More and more Hart Trophy talks include the name of Price. So does the Vezina trophy.
Price is not the only player sporting the Bleu-Blanc-Rouge that could earn an individual NHL award this season.
Although not in points, Max Pacioretty is having a career year in terms of overall play and leadership. After the departure of Brian Gionta, Pacioretty was named one of four alternate captains. It was widely perceived back in September that P.K. Sizzle, with all the fame, his big time play in the playoffs, and inking the biggest contract in Canadiens history, was the front runner to be the next one to don the ”C” in Montreal. Now, after 51 games, Pacioretty is widely seen as the next captain.
Pacioretty Taking the Lead… And Keeping It
Pacioretty decided to make his statement on the ice. He has become, by far, the best forward the coaching staff can count on. Leading the forward corps in goals, points and ice time.
The biggest change for him this year has been his defensive play. Concentrating on becoming a complete two-way player, Pacioretty’s 200 foot game has improved immensely and his now a pillar of the first Penalty Killing unit. With 43 points in 51 games and a +/- differential of 26, Max Pacioretty might well be among the top 5 of candidates to earn the Frank J. Selke trophy given to the league’s best defensive forward.
Last year’s winner of the Selke was Boston’s Patrice Bergeron. In 80 games last season, Bergeron scored 30 goals and dished out 32 assists for 62 points. his +/- differential was 38 and averaged 17:59 of ice time per game. at 5v5 close, his FenwickFor% was 60.9. his ShotsFor% at 58.3. He was unanimously voted for and won by a landslide with 93.65% of the vote.
On the Penalty Killing, Bergeron played 147:19 minutes shorthanded. His 4v5 FenwickFor% was 19.4, his ShotsFor% at 20.1. He averaged 5.29 Goals Against per 60 minutes. He recorded an assist on three shorthanded goals.
Last year’s runner-up for the Selke, Los Angeles Kings’ Anze Kopitar, played all 82 games last year. He tallied 29 goals, 41 assists for 70 points and finished with a 34 +/- differential, spending 20:53 minutes on the ice per game on average. At 5v5 Close, Kopitar has a 62.5 both FenwickFor% and ShotsFor%.
Anze Kopitar played 154:50 minutes short-handed, his FenwickFor% is 10.9, his ShotsFor% is 10.2 and averaged 8.91 Goals Against per 60 minutes.
Both these players are playing on teams that struggled at the start of the season. Far from being too late to turn the tide, Bergeron is still a favorite but not by the runaway margin some would expect.
Tough Year For The Bruins Might Help Pacioretty
After 50 games played, Patrice Bergeron has 13 goals and 21 assists for 34 points and has a +/- differential of 5. His advanced stats haven’t taken as much a beating as the archaic ones. At 5v5 Close, Bergeron has a FenwickFor% of 57.0, and ShotsFor% of 58.0. He averages 2.77 Goals Against per 60 and 3.24 Goals For per 60 minutes.
At 4v5 shorthanded, he has a FenwickFor% of 17.1 and ShotsFor% of 18.5. He his averaging 7.13 Goals Against per 60.
In the same 50 games sample size, Max Pacioretty has 23 goals and 18 assists for 41 points. He averages 19:36 minutes of ice time per game. His +/- goal differential is 24 and is on pace to finish with a differential of 39. His FenwickFor numbers at 5v5 close are 54.2%, his ShotsFor% at 53.8. He averages 1.66 Goals Against per 60 and 3.31 Goals For per 60 minutes.
With over 80 minutes played shorthanded, Max Pacioretty has a FenwickFor% of 20.0, a ShotsFor of 21.7, and recorded an assist. He also averages 5.22 Goals Against per 60 minutes shorthanded, almost two less than Bergeron.
The Canadiens are fifth in the league with a 84.52% Penalty Kill efficiency and the team with the least goals against with 115.
Leadership In Action
So it is easy to believe that Max Pacioretty has worked his way among a very specific elite in the NHL. He can now be mentioned in the same breath as the Bergerons, Toews, and Kopitars. Not a bad company to keep.
With only slightly above 2/3 of the season in the record books, there is still a lot of hockey to be played this season. It is too early to raise any arm in victory but don’t be surprised if Pacioretty finds himself runner-up or second runner-up for the Selke if he doesn’t win it. At 26 years old, he already made a valuable impact for his team and has more good years and quality play ahead of him. He just might become a mainstay in the Selke discussions for years to come.
For The First Time In A Generation
Max Pacioretty is the last Canadien forward to earn an individual award, winning the Bill Masterton trophy after the 2011-12 for scoring 30 goals for the first time after coming back from injuries caused by Zdeno Chara’s dirty hit.
He would be the first winger to win the trophy in 12 years since right-winger Jere Lethinen won it after the 2002-03 season. He would also be the first Hab to bring the Selke Trophy back in Montreal since Guy Carbonneau last won it after the 1991-92 season, and the first Canadien winger to win it since the very first recipient of the Frank J. Selke Trophy, incidently the man who drafted Pacioretty, Bob Gainey.