MONTREAL – Max Pacioretty wanted to take advantage of playing with a veteran Canadiens lineup on Monday night against the Devils, and the 24-year-old capitalized on that opportunity.
By registering the third and fourth goals of his preseason campaign in a 3-2 win over the Devils at the Bell Centre, the New Canaan, CT native continued to assert himself as a force to be reckoned with heading into the regular season.
Knowing full well what Pacioretty brings to the table when he’s on his game, head coach Michel Therrien praised the left winger for his relentlessness and dedication throughout the early part of the year. The Habs bench boss believes the University of Michigan product is trending in the right direction with a new season on the horizon.
“[Pacioretty] is a power forward. He uses his speed well to beat his opponents. When he uses his speed, he’s very intimidating,” said Therrien, who saw the five-year NHL veteran tally two power play goals on Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur to pull even with Michael Bournival for the most preseason goals on the team. “Since the first day of training camp, we’ve seen a player who’s very determined, a player who’s in great shape, a player who has a lot of power and energy. He came into camp with the right attitude.”
Thriving alongside linemates Daniel Briere and David Desharnais, Pacioretty was quick to point out that the trio has forged impressive chemistry despite having spent only two games together thus far.
“[Monday night] was a great example of that chemistry that exists between us. New Jersey didn’t give us many chances. They play tough deep in their own end, and we’re able to cycle them pretty well,” mentioned Pacioretty, who led players on both teams with seven shots on goal. “We’ve been getting better every day. We’re talking a lot. We’re working hard. I felt very comfortable [on Monday night], and I think my two linemates did as well. We’re moving the puck really well out there. It feels like we know where each other are, and we’re only going to get better from there.”
That certainly was the case against the Devils as the Pacioretty-Desharnais-Briere line generated four points combined. While Therrien confirmed that the Habs had only recently begun addressing their special teams play, the trio appeared ready and able to utilize the addition of Briere to its advantage when New Jersey was down a man. The Canadiens, who ranked fifth in the league with a 20.7 percent power play efficiency rating in 2012-13, went 2-for-4 in their fifth preseason game of the year.
“We’ve been moving the puck well. It’s nice. Danny is a right-handed shot and he can play on that other side. We now have more of a threat on both sides and it’s going to be hard for teams to read,” confirmed Pacioretty, who finished as the Habs' leading point-getter over the last two seasons. “We’re using the whole zone right now. Teams are starting to just put a guy on P.K. [Subban] on that one-timer side, and it’s almost easier for teams to play against, so you want to use your weapons. You want to give P.K. that puck, but having Danny on the right side is another option and it should help our power play.”
Desharnais was adamant, however, that the line still has to work out a few kinks before going up against top penalty-killing units come October.
“The execution was on point, but we’ve still got work to do for everything to be ready to go. There are two games remaining in the preseason and a week to go before things start. We at least wanted to pick up a win at home before we started and that’s what we did on Monday night,” mentioned Desharnais, who racked up his fourth assist of the preseason on Pacioretty’s second goal of the game. “It will take time, but it’s a long season and we want to get better every day.”
That’s exactly what should happen as the Canadiens head into the homestretch of their preseason schedule with back-to-back tilts against the Senators on Wednesday and Thursday. As Therrien continues to field lineups that more closely resemble the one fans will likely see on opening night, Pacioretty insists that games take on greater significance for the players themselves.
“It’s huge. You play different types of minutes in preseason when it’s not the full team out there. We had pretty much a full roster on Monday night, so I think it’s more reasonable and more game-like in terms of the regular season,” offered Pacioretty, who logged 16:01 of ice time against New Jersey. “Everybody plays their role, and I think it’s a good way to get ready for the season.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO Game highlightsWords from the roomThe Numbers Game – September 23, 2013