BROSSARD -- When the Montreal Canadiens assigned Max Pacioretty
to the Hamilton Bulldogs at the start of the 2010-11 season, they did so hoping the move would give the young forward a chance to build his confidence.
Called up after 27 games with the Bulldogs, the Pacioretty who addressed the media after the Habs’ Monday morning skate appeared both confident and focused as he discussed what to date, has been a career year of hockey for him.
“This is a great opportunity. I’m confident and I think I’m playing some of the best hockey of my career,” asserted the young left-winger. “So much of this game is mental and you have to overcome so many obstacles to be able to succeed at this level, but I honestly think that’s the strongest part of my game right now.”
Currently leading the American Hockey League with 17 goals, Pacciorety is well aware of what Jacques Martin is expecting from his game and plans to answer the call.
“I had a really good conversation with the coach and I think we’re both on the same page. He told me to keep playing the same game that’s made me successful this year and use it up here,” explained Pacioretty of a recent discussion with the Canadiens’ head-coach. “It was a huge weight off my shoulders to know that he wanted me to keep doing what was working for me, and that he was in my corner on that front.”
Often a player’s success can be traced back to a specific turning point. In the case of Pacioretty, that moment came on Nov. 20, in a game against the Toronto Marlies, that saw him record the first hat-trick of his professional career, on his 22nd birthday, no less.
“Once I got the hat-trick it really helped my confidence and helped open up the flood gates for me as far as scoring. It’s great to be able to have the puck on your stick and know that it’s going to go in.”
Even before his skates hit the Bell Centre ice, Jacques Martin is already expressing his satisfaction in the young forward’s performance. The Habs’ coach was on hand for the Bulldogs’ Sunday game in which Pacioretty recorded a goal and an assist.
“He’s gotten to the point where he needs to be challenged. I think his game’s been very good lately. He goes to the net, and plays intelligently. We believe that he’ll be able to help the organization,” explained Martin of the new-found confidence Pacioretty brings with him to Montreal.“Whether a player is being called up for the third, fourth or fifth time, it’s all just a part of a player’s development. Sometimes a player can get called up early because of the needs of the team,” continued Martin. “I thought he played well last year, but needed to be put in a position where he could build his confidence and get to play more minutes. It’s important to always be in a state of development. In his case, I believe that he’s ready for the challenge and that it will allow him to continue his development.”
For Pacioretty, despite playing with more confidence than ever before, the young winger knows he’ll have to raise his level of competition even further if he hopes to stay in Montreal.
“I know that every part of my game has to be on if I’m going to contribute and help the team, but I’ve been skating with my head up and skating with a lot of confidence. I’m ready to go.”Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSOVote for the Play of the WeekCanadiens recall Max Pacioretty Take the power back