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Max Pacioretty is not going through a rough stretch at all

There has been some criticism of late surrounding Max Pacioretty. In reality, he and his line are doing extremely well.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

There has been a lot of talk lately about Max Pacioretty, mostly on social media, that the Canadiens captain is not producing enough. With only two goals and four assists in his last 10 games, many have claimed that he needs to be better, and that something seems off with his game.

Unfortunately, these claims may pass the eye test, but are completely and utterly unsupported.

That Pacioretty hasn't been scoring at a torrid pace over the last stretch is not for lack of effort, nor is it the case that he is playing badly. In fact, he's been one of Montreal's most dominant forwards, and has simply fallen victim to standard regression coupled with bad shooting luck at even strength. As we all know, scoring goals in the NHL is a hard task. Every single player in the NHL, except maybe for Alex Ovechkin, can be classified as "streaky".

First, let's take a look at Pacioretty's numbers over the last 10 games, and see if there is anything legitimate to complain about. The table below is sortable by clicking on the values.

Opp G A P CF% CF%Rel PDO PSh% ZSO%Rel iSC SCF% TOI/Gm
VAN 1 1 61.9 8.8 94.4 16.7 -32.6 2 50 13.7
COL 1 1 75.9 13.6 81.2 0 23.8 2 72.7 13.5
PIT 1 1 64.5 16.9 90 0 2.4 4 68.8 14.7
BOS 56.5 1.8 100 0 32.4 5 70 14.4
NYI 1 1 76.9 26.9 16.7 0 -42.7 1 71.4 11.9
OTT 66.7 7 100 0 27.8 3 60 16.4
WPG 55.6 9.7 75 0 -16.1 1 45.5 15.5
CGY 34.4 -15.6 90 0 -0.6 4 40 14.3
EDM 60 27.4 100 0 -10.1 1 50 16.3
VAN 47.4 -8.4 100 0 31.4 1 44.4 14

(All stats 5-on-5 only, via war-on-ice.com, CF% = Corsi For percentage, CF% Rel = Corsi For percentage relative to the team, PDO = sum of a team's even strength shooting percentage and even strength save percentage, ZSO% Rel = Fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts relative to the team, PSh% = Personal shooting percentage, iSC = individual scoring chances, SCF% = scoring chance for %, TOI GM = time on ice per game)

  • Even during his five-game pointless streak, Pacioretty was playing very well, and the only two games you could possibly pick fault at would be those against Vancouver and Calgary.
  • On the whole, through this 10-game "rough patch," he's been out-attempting, out-chancing, and simply outplaying the opposition overall at even strength, he just hasn't had any shooting luck.
  • Even when he has received tough zonal deployment, the Habs control well over 50% of the shot attempts at even strength while he's on the ice. Yeah, what a "rough patch."
  • I can understand how expectations have been a little inflated. After all, he potted seven goals and four assists in his first nine games of the season. The thing is, that was never sustainable. His career shooting percentage is 11.4%, and he was clocking over 20% during those nine games. For him to regress is only natural.

It's not just Pacioretty out there though, as his line with Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Plekanec has been nothing short of dominant over the last stretch of games. Here are their individual totals over the last 10 games, otherwise known as Pacioretty's "rough patch."

Player G60 A60 P60 CF% CF%Rel PDO PSh% iSC SCF% ZSO%Rel TOI/Gm
Plekanec 0 0.8 0.8 56.7 3.9 94.6 0 12 53.8 2.1 14.1
Gallagher 1.3 0.4 1.7 59.8 8.4 99.4 12.5 24 59.5 3.7 14
Pacioretty 0.4 1.2 1.7 59.3 7.6 93.6 3.1 24 56.7 2.8 14.5

(All stats 5 vs 5 only, via war-on-ice.com, G/60 = goals per 60 minutes TOI, A/60 assists per 60, P/60 points per 60, CF% = Corsi For percentage, CF% Rel = Corsi For percentage relative to the team, PDO = sum of a team's even strength shooting percentage and even strength save percentage, ZSO% Rel = Fraction of offensive vs defensive zone starts relative to the team, PSh% = Personal shooting percentage, iSC = individual scoring chances, SCF% = scoring chance for %, TOI GM = time on ice per game)

  • Pacioretty hasn't been scoring like crazy at even strength lately, but Gallagher has. Surely either one is just as happy when the other is filling the net.
  • Both Pacioretty and Plekanec have had pretty bad shooting luck at even strength lately, so their percentages are due for a bump. When and if that happens, this line will be quite the thing to behold.
  • They aren't very sheltered in terms of deployment. This is an extremely versatile trio that can be used in nearly every situation, and Michel Therrien is utilizing them as such.
  • The tie at 24 individual scoring chances between Pacioretty and Gallagher puts them at the top of the team during the last 10 games. Again, this showcases Pacioretty's luck compared to Gallagher's. If they can keep up this pace, more goals will come.
There really is no rough patch at all, and the criticisms that have been directed at Pacioretty are unfounded. He and his line are working wonders for the Canadiens. It is easy to simply say, "Pacioretty isn't scoring enough goals," but the reality is that those goals you'd like to see will only come if he keeps playing the way he is right now.

I'd caution any naysayers referencing the so-called struggles of Max Pacioretty to look at the underlying numbers. To criticize him is to criticize one of the most dominant players on the Canadiens roster, playing on the most dominant line.