Pacioretty ready to take next step

Tuesday, 06.19.2012 / 11:04 PM
Shawn P. Roarke  - Senior Managing Editor

LAS VEGAS -- Max Pacioretty can't believe the success he has encountered in the past season.

In his first 123 NHL games, he managed just 20 goals and saw his career almost ended by an injury caused by a check by Boston's Zdeno Chara.

But in 2011-12, Pacioretty scored 33 goals -- and added 32 assists -- to put up a career season and stand out on a Montreal team that struggled all season.

"I've had so much success in the past year and a half and it all came pretty much out of nowhere," Pacioretty told on Tuesday during media day for the NHL Awards.

While Pacioretty was angry that the Canadiens limped home in last place in the Eastern Conference -- enduring a season to forget that cost the jobs of the general manager and two different coaches -- the failures allowed Pacioretty to play in the World Championships.

"The Worlds was a great experience for me, but unfortunately, we came up a bit short," Pacioretty said, referring to Team USA, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals. "But I learned about myself as a player and what I have to do to become the player I want to be."

But even with all the success Pacioretty has enjoyed since October, he has no plans to rest on his laurels.

"Now it's time to just relax a bit and work out," he said.

Pacioretty knows that the success he's had this season will not just repeat itself next season. Hard work will have to be applied toward his goal of duplicating -- if not bettering -- his 33-goal output. He said that is a lesson rooted in the long layoff after the Chara hit.

"I definitely take a lot of positives out of my situation and my injury," he said. "I had to grow up a lot and I matured a lot. I kind of use it as motivation not to prove the people that doubted me wrong, but prove that you can overcome an injury like that and become a better player. I think I did that, but I know I have a lot of work to do down the road."

He doesn't need extra motivation, but he also understands that things will be different next season in Montreal after an aggressive end-of-season overhaul highlighted by the installation of Michel Therrien as the new head coach.

Therrien is considered a taskmaster who demands two-way accountability, a reputation he earned while forging the Penguins into Stanley Cup contenders in 2008 before Dan Bylsma came in and finished the job.

"I haven't heard much, but what I have heard is he is pretty demanding of all of his players and I think that is really important for our team, because, like I said, I think we were really set off course last year and didn't really have a sense of direction," Pacioretty said. "If he is demanding of that, I think that is exactly the route we need to go.

"It's nice to know we have a sense of direction now. Everyone is on the same page. With all the hirings and firings over the past season, it was a bit of a distraction and kind of set guys off course and made them question how they should play the game. Now that we have a sense of direction, everyone will know their role and what makes the team successful."

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