Pacioretty proves his value to first-place Canadiens

AP
  • Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) celebrates his goal with teammate Alexander Radulov (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Toronto on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

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    Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) vies for the loose puck with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

  • Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) celebrates his goal with teammate Alexander Radulov (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, in Toronto on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

  • 1

    Montreal Canadiens left wing Max Pacioretty (67) vies for the loose puck with Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Morgan Rielly (44) during the third period of an NHL hockey game in Toronto on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP)

MONTREAL (AP) Max Pacioretty will have to wait at least another year to get his time in the All-Star spotlight.

The Montreal Canadiens' captain was left off this year's All-Star roster despite being one of the league's most consistent scoring threats.

He built a strong case for this month's event in Los Angeles, right there among the league leaders with 19 goals and he's been on a roll since the middle of November.

The 28-year-old's star power still needs a boost, falling well short of his production on the ice.

Only three players have scored more goals (173) than the American winger since 2011: Alex Ovechkin (243), Steven Stamkos (202) and Joe Pavelski (178).

His 129 even-strength goals are bettered only by superstars Ovechkin (139) and Stamkos (139).

"I don't know about (the media), but we don't (take him for granted)," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently. "We appreciate what he's capable (of doing). The last two months he's been phenomenal with us."

After a slow start just two goals in the first 14 games Pacioretty has been on a roll.

He's tied with Sidney Crosby and Jeff Carter for the NHL lead in goals since Nov. 12 with 17. He scored four in three games last week, including back-to-back overtime winners, the second one giving him the franchise lead in OT goals.

His 38 winning goals over the past five-plus seasons trail only Ovechkin's 42.

Therrien raved about his play, pointing to his "passion" in particular, and positive influence on the dressing room of the first-place Canadiens.

"He wants to make a difference every game," Therrien said of Pacioretty, on pace to hit 38 goals and establish a career best with 68 points. "And he's doing a hell of a job for us."

Teammate Mark Barberio thought Pacioretty's consistency as a scorer in an era when goals continue to trend downward and goalies get bigger and better was underrated.

In fact, Pacioretty has been one of the league's most consistent scoring threats, one of only four players to hit 30 goals in each of the previous four full seasons the others being Ovechkin, Pavelski and the Ducks' Corey Perry.

Yet, he's rarely in the conversation of the league's top players.

He has probably been overshadowed by star teammates Carey Price, P.K. Subban, Shea Weber and Alex Radulov. He's also never been the best or even second-best player on his team and his game lacks the sizzle of Ovechkin or Stamkos.

While he may not be flashy, Pacioretty is plenty effective.

Formerly of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Barberio joined the Habs last year and was struck by the quickness of his new teammate's release, describing his shot as "world-class".

"He's deceptive," Barberio said. "And when he brings it to the net he brings it with a lot of force and I think that's what surprises goalies the most."

"Not everybody has a shot like that," he added. "There's (only) a few guys in the league that can just beat a goalie clean one-on-one and he's definitely one of them. We're lucky to have him."

Pacioretty's wrist shot, in particular, has been the NHL's most potent over the past six seasons. He tops all players with 111 goals on his wrist shot in that span, trailing only the Blues' Vladimir Tarasenko and Jets' Mark Scheifele with 12 this season.

Pacioretty doesn't just score either. Underlying stats that suggest he's one of the more effective penalty-killing forwards in the NHL, albeit in a secondary role. He's also one of Montreal's top puck possession players (53.8 percent), a long 6-foot-2, 215-pound winger who's spent the season with a variety of linemates because of injuries for the Habs.

Only one Atlantic Division forward, Toronto's Auston Matthews, has more goals than Pacioretty so far and, heading into Tuesday's games, only three had more than his 34 points (Nikita Kucherov, Brad Marchand and Matthews).

But it was not enough to earn him a first-time All-Star nod with Price and Weber both garnering spots for Montreal.

"Maybe he flies under the radar but not in this room," Barberio said. "We know what he brings."

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