DALLAS – Max Pacioretty is Sochi-bound, and with good reason.
Named to Team USA’s 25-man roster for the 2014 Winter Olympics on Wednesday afternoon, the 25-year-old power forward was rewarded for his stellar play through the first-half of the 2013-14 NHL campaign.
“It’s obviously such an honor. You see some guys that didn’t make the team, and it really could have gone either way. I’ve played pretty well as of late, but my game is even better than I’ve shown so far this year,” offered Pacioretty, who leads the Canadiens with 17 goals thus far this season, eight of which came in the month of December alone.
“I’m going to be lining up against the best players in the world, and it’s an opportunity where you can let your skills really shine,” added the New Canaan, CT native, who joins the likes of Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler and Zach Parise on a squad helmed by Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma. “I think I attribute most of my game to my speed, and I think I really need to use it over there. I want to open up some eyes over there, and hopefully I can do that.”
If Pacioretty’s play as of late is any indication, there’s little doubt the left-winger will deliver on those intentions. Coming off his fifth multi-goal game of the year on Tuesday night against the Hurricanes, the 2012 Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy winner is playing confident and consistent hockey, which is what ultimately caught the eye of Team USA general manager, David Poile.
Nevertheless, Pacioretty is quick to admit that it was somewhat nerve-racking waiting to hear if an Olympic nod was coming his way.
“I’m only human. After a bad game, it definitely crept into my mind a little bit. I tried not to think about it as much as possible,” mentioned the six-year NHL veteran, who previously represented the United States internationally at the 2008 World Junior Hockey Championships in the Czech Republic and the 2012 World Hockey Championships in Finland and Sweden. “I think people would be lying if they say they weren’t thinking about it at all, but I think I did a pretty good job of blocking it out lately.”
The Canadiens’ leading point-producer the last two seasons running certainly has, something that was made somewhat easier following the birth of his son, Lorenzo, back on Dec. 23 in Connecticut.
“I think ever since I had my kid a week ago, I kind of realized that whatever happens, happens,” confided the University of Michigan product. “Obviously, I wanted to make this team more than anything. The past week I kind of just forgot about it, and said that whatever happens, happens and I can only control what I can control. That’s the attitude I’ve got to have going forward, too.”
If the Americans were the first team to make their Olympic selections known to the rest of the hockey world, other countries in the draw will soon follow suit. It’s then that Pacioretty will know which of his fellow Habs he will have to go up against in Russia.
“I don’t know what will happen with teams from other countries, but I know there are plenty of good players with the Canadiens and there will be more than a few over there. It will be an honor to play against them,” praised Pacioretty.
“If I have to play against Carey [Price], it isn’t good for me,” added the former first-round selection, who will learn if the Habs’ starting netminder is headed to Sochi when Team Canada unveils its roster on Jan. 7. “He knows my tendencies. I can’t really score on him at practice.”
Fortunately, Pacioretty still has a month to figure Price out if Canada comes calling.
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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