Max Pacioretty has been with the Canadiens since 2008 and seen plenty of games, but none of them top Monday’s big 4-0 win over Boston in Game 6 of their second-round series.
“It was definitely the first time in this series that we controlled the pace of the game,” Pacioretty said, per the Montreal Gazette. “That’s the best I’ve seen this team play — ever — since I started wearing this uniform.
“When you use our speed it’s so frustrating for a team to play against us.”
The Habs certainly looked the faster team in Game 6, and Pacioretty had plenty to do with that. The NHL’s fourth-leading goalscorer this year — with 39 — Pacioretty failed to find the back of the net once in the first five games of the series and had come under fire for his lack of production, especially since he was a virtual non-factor in last year’s opening-round loss to Ottawa and had just two points in this year’s Round 1 sweep of Tampa Bay.
Tonight, though, “Patch” broke through.
The most telling example of his improved play — and Montreal’s speed, too — came on his goal, when he outraced Zdeno Chara for a loose puck:
Following the game, Pacioretty decided to have a little fun at the media’s expense. He, along with teammate P.K. Subban, sounded both excited and supremely confident heading into Wednesday’s Game 7 in Boston, and Pacioretty opted to express that to reporters.
“I read every article written about me and it taught me how to score,” Pacioretty said. “That was the difference tonight.”
Pavel Zacha was this close to making his NHL debut.
Just days prior to opening their season against the Jets, the Devils returned Zacha — the sixth overall pick at this year’s draft — back to his junior club in OHL Sarnia.
The move comes after Zacha, 18, impressed throughout training camp and the preseason. He appeared in four exhibition games for New Jersey, scoring one point while endearing himself to the organizational brass, coaching staff and players.
“He understands the game. He plays with a maturity. It’s crazy to think an 18-year-old coming out of high school is up here and playing with the maturity and understanding of the game with the new system,” Kyle Palmieri told NJ.com. “I think he’s got a lot of raw talent there as a power forward. He’s got the body for it, the puck-handling skills and the nose for the net.”
At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, Zacha has the frame and physical stature to play at the NHL level, and looked the part for long stretches of the exhibition season, getting turns on New Jersey’s top line.
The decision to send him back to junior is probably the right one, however.
Zacha only turned 18 in April and has limited experience even at the OHL level; ’14-15 was his first year with Sarnia, though he did appear in 38 Czech League games (for Liberec) the season prior.
There’s another Raffl in the NHL.
On Tuesday, the Jets announced that Thomas Raffl — the older brother of Flyers forward Michael Raffl — has signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $575,000.
Raffl, 29, was in Winnipeg’s camp on a PTO after a lengthy career in Europe. He spent time playing in Sweden and his native Austria, most recently with powerhouse EC Red Bull Salzburg — last year, Raffl scored 53 points in 52 games for Salzburg and three in seven games for Austria while serving as team captain at the World Hockey Championships.
“We would like to recognize and express our appreciation to the EC Red Bull Salzburg organization for allowing Thomas and the Winnipeg Jets this opportunity,” Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff said in a statement.
With the Jets, Raffl projects to play in the bottom-six forward group, where he can utilize his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame in a checking-slash-energy role.
For now, though, he’ll start out with the club’s AHL affiliate in Manitoba.