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How Max Pacioretty scored his goals in 2013 - Part 3 - Analysis

Some people believe that Pacioretty had a disappointing year offensively in 2013, but since he's our first repeat from last season, we can compare his 15 goals this year to his 33 of last year and find out if that's true.

Bruce Bennett

We all know how good Max Pacioretty is, let's get right to the numbers.

Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
15 11 5 6
Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
5 0 6 5 2 2

For the first time in three seasons, Pacioretty's goals didn't come most commonly from wrist shots, but from snap shots. However the two shots have always been extremely close for him, and make up the majority of his scoring.

Last season Pacioretty lead the Habs with 19 goals scored off the rush, this year he was down to just 5, which put him on an 8 in 82 pace, less than half of the year before. Part of this is likely a change in the system from 2011-12 to 2013, but also a change in his deployment. Pacioretty started just 49.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone last season, which makes it tougher to score but also cues up more opportunity for breakouts and goals off the rush. This year he started 63.6% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which boosted his scoring on zone plays instead.

Let's bring in Pacioretty's stats from the last two years and do some comparisons.

2011-12 Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
33 14 19 9
2011-12 Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
14 0 11 6 4 4

In contrast to 2011-12, Pacioretty scored a higher proportion of his goals on individual efforts up from 27.3% to 40%. This may be due to the regression of David Desharnais, but I think the bigger factor was the decline of Erik Cole. Pacioretty's most common second line mate was Brendan Gallagher, who's no slouch, but he didn't have the consistent line chemistry this season that he had last year, which lead to more doing it himself.

Goals on zone plays shifted drastically from 42.4% of all goals to 73.3%, for reasons we've already covered.

2010-11 Goals by situation
Goals Goals on zone plays Goals off the rush Goals on individual efforts
14 10 4 4
2010-11 Goals by shot type
Wrist Slap Snap One-timer Tip Backhand
4 2 3 3 4 1

During Pacioretty's breakout season, his situational splits are much closer to this past year than 2011-12. In 2010-11 Pacioretty wasn't as zonally sheltered as this year, but he did start 56.9% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Pacioretty also scored 7 powerplay goals in 2010-11, compared to just 4 in each of the following two seasons, which boosts goals on zone plays.

Watching Pacioretty play, one of his greatest strengths is controlling the flow of play in the offensive zone, so it's not surprising that two of three seasons it's goals on zone plays that lead the way. I would guess that his 2011-12 season is an outlier in regards to how he'll score his goals in the future, although more goals off the rush are likely to happen when he is put in a role that isn't so offensive zone heavy. I do wonder if Pacioretty's skills as a puck carrier and excellent skater are wasted to an extent by the way Therrien deployed him in 2013.

One of the knocks on Pacioretty this season was that he didn't go to the dirty areas to score like he did last season. While the NHL's shot data is so inaccurate that it's essentially worthless, just for argument's sake I'll not that last season Pacioretty's average even strength shot was from 34.6 feet from the net, this year was 35.2 feet. An insignificant difference if the data is to be believed.

To go over this though, I've looked at the goals again from this year and last to see how many were scored within 10 feet of the net as a percentage of total goals.

In 2011-12 13 of Pacioretty's 33 goals were scored on or close to the goal mouth, 39.4% of the goals he scored that year. In 2013 Pacioretty scored 7 of his 15 goals from on or close to the goal mouth, moving up to 46.7% of his total goals. So once again, a media narrative seems to be proven false, this is despite the fact that Michel Therrien had Pacioretty hang back in the slot for one-timers more often by design.

Habs fans expected more goals from Pacioretty in 2013, and some went as far as to say they were disappointed with him even though he lead the team in points for the second straight year. What went wrong for Pacioretty? Simply some poor shooting luck. Pacioretty scored on just 9.2% of his shots last year, whereas he recorded an 11.8% shooting percentage the previous two years. Shooting at that average, he would have scored 19 goals in 44 games this season, and been on pace for 36 over 82 games.

But that doesn't even cover the limits of Pacioretty's potential. He played 1:45 less per game this year than last, but still increased his shots per game rate, which I mentioned in his half season review. There's a very real possibility that he could score 40 goals in the near future.