In a season of disappointment there have been several success stories that keep watching Montreal Canadiens hockey bearable. We have seen some incredible play from goalkeeper Carey Price, a player who continues to prove himself as an elite player in this league. An elite player not only in his position but overall in the league. While Price is stopping pucks defenceman Alexei Emelin has been stopping players, mainly with crushing body checks. After some early shaky play Emelin has settled in and has become a physical force for the Canadiens. Erik Cole, an NHL veteran, has also had an elite season proving himself as one of the only Canadiens who can score consistently.
However, possibly the most exciting story of the season has not been the play of the Cole, but that of his linemate. At some points last season it was in doubt that Max Pacioretty would ever play another NHL game. After fracturing a vertebrae and picking up a minor concussion versus the Boston Bruins most were more concerned about his life than the fact that he would ever play in the NHL again. Yet not only did he live on he continued to work hard to return to the NHL.
Rumour has it he would have returned if the Canadiens could have gotten past the Bruins in last years playoffs. Sadly, the Canadiens couldn’t do it and the wait and see label on Max Pacioretty continued. But, quite shockingly, his game didn’t drop off whatsoever. In fact during the time he was away not only did he somehow improve his hockey ability but he also improved both his attitude and his personality.
While his play early on in the season wasn’t bad it was when he changed lines that he finally started playing up to his full potential. The two and a half men line, or so it is labelled has been the best line for the Canadiens all season. Beside Pacioretty the line includes fellow young Hab David Desharnais and veteran sniper Erik Cole. To see the incredible success of this line all you need to do is look at the Canadiens scoring leader charts. In goals Pacioretty sits in 1st while Cole is in 2nd and Desharnais is in 4th. Assists sees Desharnais sit number 1 while Pacioretty is in 3rd and Cole is in 4th. All of this combines to see the trio sit as the top 3 scorers on the Canadiens this year.
But the most impressive season so far belongs to Pacioretty. Max has 56 points for the Canadiens this season a team best. In fact he leads linemate Desharnais by 4 points, the second place point scorer on the team. His 56 points sit 37th in the league tied with Patrick Kane and ahead of such names as Corey Perry, Jamie Benn and Logan Couture. All of whom played in the NHL all star game. Furthermore, despite not being known as a playmaker, his 26 assists are in the top 100 in the NHL.
But by far the most impressive feat that Pacioretty has accomplished this season is the 30 goals he has scored. In a season of low point totals those 30 goals ties him for 9th in the NHL. This puts him ahead of some pretty exclusive company including John Tavares (28), Jonathan Toews (29), Zach Parise (28) and Alexander Ovechkin (27). Nobody would have predicted Pacioretty scoring more than any of these players before the season. Yet on the 28th place team in the NHL Pacioretty has surprised just about everyone.
Sadly, however, the current play of Pacioretty hasn’t really been noticed outside of Montreal. But he still is in the running for at least one award when the NHL convenes to hand out its annual accolades this summer. That would be the Masterton trophy for perseverance shown by a player. It is difficult to argue that any player deserves this award more than Pacioretty, a player who went from near death to one of the most dangerous players in the entire league.