3 years later, Max Pacioretty is one of the best wingers in the NHL

Richard Wolowicz

It's been three years since Max Pacioretty was assaulted on the ice by Zdeno Chara, and he's only gotten better.

Today is an anniversary that I think most of us would like to forget. Three years ago, with the Montreal Canadiens leading the Boston Bruins 4-0 in the second period, Bruins captain Zdeno Chara saw his chance to put the hurt on Max Pacioretty, something he had been trying to do for several games, and took it.

Pacioretty was thrust into the stanchion at the end of the visitors' bench after tipping the puck past Chara seconds earlier.

We can talk about the hit, the ensuing anger, and the lack of response from the league, which embarrassed itself in the following weeks, but that isn't worth our time. And it's no doubt not something that Pacioretty focuses on anymore.

The only thing worth focusing on in regards to this anniversary is how incredible Pacioretty's recovery has been.

In 179 games since his return from a broken neck and concussion, he has 78 goals. That's impressive enough on it's own, but when you consider it's 30 goals more than the next best mark on the Canadiens in Tomas Plekanec' 48, even though Plekanec has played 14 more games, it shows the incredible rate at which Pacioretty puts the puck in the net.

Aside from goals, Pacioretty is on pace to lead the Canadiens in scoring for a third straight season, and is among the NHL's best possession players.

Pacioretty is also second in the entire NHL this season in goals per minute played, trailing only scoring phenom Alex Ovechkin. Pretty good for a player Pierre McGuire once called "at best the next Mike McPhee".

And that's not where Pacioretty's effectiveness ends. Long considered an offensive weapon, Max has been working diligently to diversify his game, and finally Michel Therrien has begun to trust him on the penalty kill. As it turns out, Pacioretty is awesome at it.

Among players with 50 minutes or more shorthanded this season, Pacioretty ranks first in the NHL in fewest shots against per minute played while he's on the ice.

Simply put, Pacioretty has become one of the NHL's best wingers, an elite scorer, and he's done it after one of the most traumatic incidents in the modern era of hockey.

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