After an incredible start to the season, the Canadiens have cooled off a little bit, but they still own an impressive 16-6-2 record.
One of the reasons they’ve hit a rough patch, is because some of their top forwards can’t seem to find the back of the net.
Alex Galchenyuk and Alexander Radulov continue to generate scoring chances, but captain Max Pacioretty, who’s hit the 30-goal mark four times in his career, is stuck on five goals.
Pacioretty hasn’t looked comfortable all season, and although he tends to be one of the streakier players in the league, he hasn’t put together many great performances in 2016-17 and it seems to be causing some friction in the room.
Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos is reporting that there’s some tension between Pacioretty and head coach Michel Therrien.
“There’s no indication that Pacioretty wants out of Montreal,” Kypreos said on Saturday. “But it’s clear from a few other teams that they want to watch this situation closely.
“Pacioretty is not being used like a four-time 30-goal scorer by the Montreal Canadiens. There seems to be some friction between Pacioretty and Therrien.”
The 28-year-old hasn’t been productive, but in fairness to him, he’s bounced around the lineup quite a bit. Lately, he’s been skating with Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher, who are also slumping.
In the past, Plekanec had been regarded as one of the best two-way players in the game. That’s no longer the case. His slump doesn’t just date back to the start of this year, it can be traced all the way back to 2015-16 (he has two goals in his last 31 games).
But getting back to Pacioretty, it’s interesting that the friction is caused by his utilization because he’s been getting plenty of ice time.
If you look at Montreal’s last 13 games, he’s played at least 18:22 in 10 of those contests. In two of his last four games, he’s played over 20 minutes.
Looking at the way the situation has unfolded from the start of the year, there’s a good chance he’s unhappy about being bounced around from center to center.
As I mentioned before, he’s played with Galchenyuk, Plekanec and he also had a stint with Phillip Danault.
Adding a second line center and another defenseman will be a priority for GM Marc Bergevin, but don’t expect him to sacrifice his captain to get a deal done.
Pacioretty still has two years left on a team-friendly contract that pays him $4.5 million per season.
But hey, the Canadiens have shocked us before.
Update: Pacioretty starts Sunday’s game on the top line with Galchenyuk and Radulov.