Is Max Pacioretty the best bargain in the NHL?
His three goals against Vancouver gave Hat-cioretty (apologies: I just love that one) 26 goals in the 49 games he’s played.
Pacioretty is on a contract that pays him $4.5 million and runs through the 2018-’19 season.
Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta are the Canadiens’ highest-paid forwards. Each makes $5 million.
Plekanec has 17 goals.
Gionta has 10.
Daniel Brière makes $500,000 less than Pacioretty and has scored nine goals this season.
So just call him Max Walmart: Great value at everyday low prices.
And of course, Pacioretty could have had five goals had he connected on those two penalty shots.
During the Canadiens’ recent travails, I haven’t been the biggest Max Pacioretty fan. Benoit Brunet on RDS has called him a “finesse player in a power forward’s body.”
Pacioretty’s reluctance to use that big body in greater proximity to opponents’ goal creases is a source of some frustration … the more so because so few of his teammates, large or small, play in the dirty areas.
But what the heck, Pacioretty is what he is. And while it might be nice to have him playing more like Brendan Gallagher, 26 goals is nothing to sneeze at (or, in Max-Pac’s case, bleed over).
The Canadiens’ leading scorer has excellent chemistry with David Desharnais, and Gallagher’s non-stop motor and ready willingness to sacrifice his body makes their unit clearly the Canadiens’ number 1 line.
What’s been pleasing, in this week’s wins over Calgary and Vancouver, is the evolution of some stability among the team’s other forwards.
Although subbed for defensive purposes in the third period, Daniel Brière has played his best hockey with Tomas Plekanec and Brian Gionta.
The newly-minted fourth line, which was outstanding against Calgary, had another solid night. Ryan White notched his first goal of the season and went 6-2 on faceoffs. Newcomer Dale Weise – a really good skater for a man his size – picked up an assist and put in some time on the penalty-kill. Let’s hope Michäel Bournival’s injury is not serious enough to derail a fourth line that is giving the Canadiens quality minutes.
The Lars Eller line got physical play from Rene Bourque and Brandon Prust, but I’m looking forward to the return of Alex Galchenyuk after the Olympic break. I’d like to see the kid playing centre by the end of the season, but that likely will be contingent on the Canadiens making some trade-deadline moves.
• • •
A W is a W, and the Canadiens remain in third place in the Atlantic Division.
But let’s not line up our spots for the Cup parade just yet, eh?
Vancouver was missing Dan Hamhuis, Kevin Bieksa plus three other defencemen.
Oh, and Henrik Sedin didn’t play.
And they outshot the Canadiens 44-29.
OK, back to sunny optimism.
• • •
Carey Price won the duel of Team Canada goaltenders.
Price, who made 42 saves, has elevated his game leading up to Sochi. Since that dreadful 5-0 loss to Washington, Price has shut out Carolina and Carolina and held Tampa Bay, Winnipeg and Vancouver to two goals.
• • •
Douglas Murray played almost 17 minutes despite missing a few shifts after taking a wicked shot on his nakle.
Murray had a couple of hits and blocked four shots. The big Swede has pretty much nailed down a starting job and is an ideal complement to Nathan Beaulieu, who is gaining confidence with each game.
P.K. Subban engineered the first goal of the game and was plus-2 . But his three giveaways and frequent u-turns back into the Canadiens zone on skating forays reinforced the perception that P.K. hasn’t been himself lately.