Tag:Max Pacioretty
Posted on: March 9, 2012 9:37 am
Edited on: March 9, 2012 9:48 am
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Pregame Skate: Southeast slug race crawls on

Florida just looked behind and saw the rest of the division on its heels. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

7 ET, Florida at Pittsburgh

The Panthers continue to go back and forth. One day you are thinking they are pretty secure in their playoff chances, the next they are getting blown out 5-0 on the road in Philadelphia as they were on Thursday.

As a matter of fact, this first-place team in the Southeast Division (really) has lost its last two road games by a combined score 0f 12-0. So really, the last thing they want to see on the schedule is the second half of a back-to-back being on the road at the Penguins. They're only 22-8-2 at home and have won seven straight, nothing too impressive.

Florida still does have the benefit of games in hand -- although they lose that tonight in their battle with the Capitals -- but their grip on the Southeast is no stranglehold. The Caps and Jets are just two behind them and the Lightning are five back with a home-heavy stretch to come.

You'd think they would have to start playing better beginning in Pittsburgh, but in all honesty they might not have to in the Southeast. A .500 finish could get them in and they have an even home/road split to the finish. But it certainly would behoove them to play better, that's for sure.

They have handled injuries all season in Florida, but the most recent one seems to hurt more than most have as leading scorer Kris Versteeg remains out with a hip injury.

9 ET, Winnipeg at Calgary

Two Canadian bubble teams, doesn't get a whole lot better in March than that.

The Jets are going to have to prove they can pick up points on the road if they are going to make the playoffs this season. After failing to do so on Thursday night in Vancouver, they have a bit better of a shot on Friday at the Flames. As mentioned above, they have a struggling division leader only two points ahead of them and others champing at the bit behind.

But the Flames are in a similar situation. They have the same point total at this point as the Jets but the race for eighth in the West is slightly better. Hey, I said slightly. Whereas the Jets are tied in points for that last spot, the Flames are three back. They also have two teams in between them and the Sharks.

This certainly isn't a loser-leave-town match (or in this case leave the playoff race) but it's a big opportunity for each to get points against beatable opponents. How else would you describe bubble teams this season?

7:30 ET, Los Angeles at Detroit

The L.A. Kings; the latest victims of the streaking Blue Jackets. Poor Jeff Carter just can't win when he's in Columbus.

If that challenge was tough, wait to see what the schedule has in store for them on Friday night: a trip to Hockeytown, USA and a date with the Red Wings. You wouldn't think that an optimal destination to pick up points in the race for eighth out West.

L.A. has seen a bit of an uptick in scoring recently but it is still mostly feast or famine for them. In the last seven games they have four wins and three losses. In each of the three losses they scored one goal, in each of the four wins they scored at least four. There's not a whole lot of middle ground there.

However, a win not only puts Los Angeles ahead of San Jose and into a playoff spot for the moment, it would actually pull the Kings even with the Coyotes at the same time in points and games. So not even a loss to Columbus could dash their hopes.

Others worth watching

8:30 ET, Rangers at Chicago: Here's the question I have: Can the Penguins actually catch the Rangers? By night's end Pittsburgh could be only four points back of New York. The Blackhawks will try to help revive the Atlantic race.

Your promised miscellany

  • Thursday's Winners & Losers
  • Speaking of those streaking Blue Jackets, coach Todd Richards sounds like he's enjoying the Jack Johnson-Jeff Carter swap. (Columbus Dispatch)
  • Jeremy Roenick remains not a big fan of Patrick Marleau's abilities with his old team in San Jose. (CSN Bay Area
  • Wait, now Don Cherry might be silenced by the NHL? Boy, the next Coach's Corner is going to be good. (Toronto Sun)
  • With this empty-netter last night, Max Pacioretty became the first American to score 30 in a season for the Canadiens. He's turned into quite a player.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 7, 2012 2:53 pm
Edited on: March 7, 2012 3:18 pm
 

Kris Letang: the missing piece for the Penguins



By: Adam Gretz

Pucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the importance of Kris Letang to the Penguins' postseason chances.

When it was announced on Tuesday afternoon that Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact, the next major step in his latest attempt return to the lineup, it sent a wave of excitement and optimism through the Penguins fan base.

It's not hard to see why. He is, after all, their captain, their best player, and the best player in the league when he's healthy.  With him in the lineup the Penguins should go from being a Stanley Cup contender to, perhaps, one of the top two or three favorites -- if not the favorite -- in the NHL ... if their lineup remains intact.

His return, whenever it happens (it apparently won't be before Sunday's game against Boston) will certainly have a significant impact on their chances. But, and as crazy as this may sound, there is still another player they are currently without that may be even more important for any sort of Stanley Cup run in Pittsburgh -- defenseman Kris Letang, who is currently out of the lineup after being hit by Eric Nystrom of the Dallas Stars at the end of February.

It's the second time this year he's missed time with a head injury, missing over 20 games with a concussion earlier this season after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty.

The Penguins have been without Crosby, minus the eight games he played earlier this season, since the beginning of last January, which is over a full calendar year and nearly a season-and-a-half worth of games, and they have still managed to be one of the top teams in the NHL.

In 65 games this season they are the third-highest scoring team in the league (in terms of goals per game) and have the second most points in the Eastern Conference, trailing only the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers. It's a testament to the depth they've acquired over the years and the 1-2 punch they still have down the middle at center with Evgeni Malkin (arguably the best player in hockey right now) and Jordan Staal, a duo that few teams in the NHL can match up with.

Even without Crosby they still have another No. 1 center, a darn good No. 2 center, and a pretty potent offense overall. One of the best in the league.

What they don't have without Letang is another No. 1 defenseman, and that's a pretty glaring weakness to have on a potential Stanley Cup team. Their blue line takes on an entirely different look without him, and it simply isn't anywhere near as effective. Just looking at the raw numbers this season: with Letang in the lineup the Penguins are 25-10-5, average over 3.2 goals per game, only allow 2.4 and have a total goal-differential of plus-31.

Without him those numbers drop down to a 14-11-0 record, 2.68 goals for per game, 2.56 against and a total goal differential of just plus-3.

Is Letang by himself worth that entire difference? Well, not exactly, because the Penguins have had other players out of the lineup at various times, but his absence is still huge given the number of roles he's asked to play, and the way he's able to perform within them.

He plays over 25 minutes a night, he is their power play quarterback, a regular on the penalty kill, and during even-strength situations he takes on some of toughest assignments on the Penguins defense, as the scatterplot below, which uses Corsi Relative Quality of Competition and Offensive Zone starts, helps to illustrate. The closer to the top left (meaning tougher opponents and fewer offensive zone starts) the more difficult the assignments, and the closer to the bottom right the "softer" the assignments.

PenguinsDefense

As you can see, the Penguins have a pretty set group of top-four defensemen that stand out from the pack when it comes to their 5-on-5 assignments with Letang, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Zbynek Michalek. Everybody else that's played on their blue line this season has been relatively protected. And when Letang is out of the lineup, as he's been for 25 games and counting this season, one of those other players has to step into a top-four role, and the results aren't always pretty.

Letang not only draws some of the toughest assignments on their blue line, he also outperforms everybody else. He has a positive Relative Corsi rating (a sign that when he's on the ice the Penguins are controlling the puck far more than they are when he's not on the ice) and he is by far their leading scorer on the blue line despite appearing in just 40 games. Orpik is a great physical presence on the blue line, and Martin hasn't been anywhere near as bad as his many critics in Pittsburgh want you to believe that he's been, but none of them are as valuable to the Penguins blue line as Letang.

His ability to get the puck out of danger, lead the rush and control the game is unmatched by any other player on their defense.

Crosby's return will be huge news, and it will give the Penguins pretty obscene depth down the middle. But the return of Letang is what would potentially put the the Penguins over the top, on paper anyway.

I'm still convinced they could win without Crosby due to the presence of Malkin and Staal at center. I'm not convinced they can win without Letang (even with Crosby) because they have nobody else that can fill his skates on defense.

(Corsi, Quality of Competition and Zone Start Data all via BehindtheNet.ca)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 29, 2012 8:44 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 8:58 pm
 

Kris Letang injured after Eric Nystrom hit

By: Adam Gretz

Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang missed 20 games earlier this season with a concussion after he was hit by Montreal's Max Pacioretty (and then made a controversial return to that game, scoring the game-winning goal in overtime).

That's why it had to be scary for the Penguins to see him go down early in the first period of Wednesday's game in Dallas after a hit by Eric Nystrom.



Letang left the game and his night appears to be over. On the list of players the Penguins can't afford to lose, Letang's name is near the top as he is without a doubt their best defenseman and plays the most minutes in every situation.

Perhaps the most shocking thing to come as a result of the hit was NBC analyst Mike Milbury, who seems to usually favor on-ice anarchy, condemned the hit and argued during the first intermission that it should be worth at least a five-game suspension.

The league will certainly review it, as it does every play, and it's impossible to guess what, if anything, will come out of it. The argument for a suspension is that there's contact to the head and Nystrom took advantage of a vulnerable player. The argument against is that Letang put himself in that vulnerable position and the puck-carrier has just as much responsibility as the player delivering the hit. It should be interesting to see how the NHL interprets it.

Nystrom was issued a two-minute minor for roughing.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: February 16, 2012 12:40 am
Edited on: February 16, 2012 2:22 pm
 

Habs fans cheer Chara being hit by puck

By Brian Stubits

Boston Bruins captain Zdeno Chara just doesn't seem to have a whole lot of luck playing in Montreal.

You don't really need a reminder of what happened last season, but just remember how he checked Max Pacioretty and sent the Canadiens forward into the stanchion, resulting in a broken neck. It got so ugly that Montreal police debated for a long while whether or not to press charges on Chara or not. Eventually the answer was no.

As a result -- and being the Bruins captain -- they aren't fond of Chara in Montreal, the Habs fans aren't. So it shouldn't surprise that the Habs fans at the Bell Centre on Wednesday night experienced a little schadenfreude when Chara took a puck to the face.

It was an errant clearing attempt from Tomas Plekanec that caught Chara up high and left him bloodied. While Plekanec was checking up on Chara, the crowd was releasing some pent-up frustration.

Some are going to call it Montreal Typical of the fans to cheer an injury, no matter the player and trash the Habs fans. I've already seen plenty of it. But it's a bit understandable. Fans take it personally when players are injured on their favorite teams and they feel like the offender got away with it. It doesn't quite sit right with me to cheer an injury, but it's understandable.

Chara did return in the game, but his luck didn't get much better. He made an awfully careless play in his own end that led to Erik Cole's equalizer before the Bruins eventually won in a shootout.

H/t to Backhand Shelf

More from Eye On Hockey

Pacioretty carted off the ice
Chara not charged for hit
Marchand called for clipping Wednesday

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 1, 2012 2:01 pm
 

Canadiens take exception to Gaustad's chirp

By Brian Stubits

Go back a few months and it was the Buffalo Sabres who were being picked on, called out for being soft or whatever other similar insult people could come up with.

The shoe is on the other foot today. That's nice for a change in what has been a pretty miserable season for Buffalo up to this point.

The Sabres began the post-All-Star break push with a 3-1 win on the ice in Montreal. Paul Gaustad had a point on each of those three goals, so he was probably pretty jacked up. But with a few seconds left and the lead up the eventual 3-1 game-winning margin, there got to be some chirping by the benches.

None of this should strike you as unusual (except Gaustad recording three points in one game). Chirping happens all the time. But the Canadiens didn't like something that Gaustad had to say, specifically him asking Max Pacioretty "Where's Chara?"

That line shouldn't need a refresher at this point, but just in case it does, here you go.

Not to be outdone, the Habs responded by asking Gaustad "Where's Lucic?" referencing the situation earlier this season where Lucic ran over Ryan Miller and the Sabres didn't have much of a response.

Again, none of this is usually a big deal. That's mostly because this stuff normally doesn't make its way into the media. But this one obviously has thanks to the Habs, specifically Mathieu Darche and goaltender Carey Price. Here's Darche after the game last night (from the Buffalo News).

Price had some comments of his own, saying "He's got a big mouth and he likes to run it. What can you do? Can't worry about what he's got to say. He doesn't do much out there."

Seeing how that all took place in the Canadiens locker room after the game last night, the first chance the Sabres had to talk about it publicly was on Wednesday at the morning skate. Gaustad was pretty frank when discussing the matter (again from the Buffalo News).

"I'm just going to address it for the last time today," Gaustad said. "It's something where Pacioretty said something to me, I said something back along the same lines and the guy that kind of brought it up in the media [Montreal's Mathieu Darche] wasn't even involved with it. For Darche to bring it up in the media, in my opinion is stuff on the ice stays on the ice. I don't want to blow it out of proportion. You have to have thick skin in the NHL. I'm fine with it. Just move on."

Hey, maybe the NHL has a new marketing partner in Las Vegas: What happens on the ice stays on the ice.

Lindy Ruff isn't one to shy away from making comments on these matters either, so he had his piece. Again, not much on the mincing words front.

"I could give you one situation every night [where there is trash-talking]," Ruff said. "For them to go public that I thought was ridiculous on their part. They were looking for something to talk about or feel good about after that game and they're barking up the wrong tree if you ask me."

It brings that old unwritten rule book conversation again. What is in bounds as far as trash-talking goes? It's pretty clear that we have some differing opinions from the Canadiens and Sabres concerning injury chirps. But what's the line, if one is even there? If there were one of decorum, there's little doubt Pacioretty's would be off limits, it was a vicious hit that left him with a broken neck.

As Ruff says, there is trash-talking all the time. It's pretty much a part of the game, you know it comes with the territory. Behind the scenes shows like HBO's 24/7 have helped make that plenty clear to those who haven't played hockey or been on the ice.

I've chatted with somebody whose job it was to open the penalty box doors and he had some great stories about the cross-box trash talk, names omitted of course. There isn't a whole lot that's sacred ground.

You be the judge on this one: Did the Sabres cross the line here or are the Habs wrong for making it public?

By the way, doesn't this have to really make the Bruins and their fans laugh? Two division rivals taunting each other with things Bruins players have done to each?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 5, 2011 5:27 pm
 

Pacioretty still unhappy with Shanahan reasoning

By Brian Stubits

The honeymoon for Brendan Shanahan is over, the grace period gone. Now he's beginning to feel some of the blow back that Colin Campbell put up for years.

Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty just finished serving a three-game suspension for an open-ice hit that left Penguins defenseman Kris Letang with a broken nose. He wasn't overly pleased with the punishment from the start, and now he is getting in a little war of the words with the discipline boss.

For some, Pacioretty's hit on Letang evoked memories of Matt Cooke's shot on Marc Savard a couple seasons ago. According to Pacioretty, Shanahan is one of those people.

From the Canadian Press, Pacioretty insisted Monday that Shanahan compared the hit to the Cooke hit, something Pacioretty doesn't feel was fair.

“We didn't bring it up, [Shanahan] brought it up,” Pacioretty said. “You can ask my agent [Alec Schall]. He was on the phone. Ask the GM [Pierre Gauthier]. It happened.

“In the back of my mind it's a completely different hit. Savard's a lefty coming across. He has no idea Cooke's coming from the other side of the ice. I'm not trying to get into comparisons, but they [the NHL] compared it to that and we compared it to [Tampa Bay's Ryan] Malone on [Montreal's Chris] Campoli."

Hey Max, I don't see the problem in the NHL comparing it to the Cooke-Savard incident. After all, Cooke received no punishment (it's never too late for some Colie humor).

"Every hit's different. That's what makes this tough," Pacioretty acknowledged. "There is always going to be that grey area. They're doing the best they can to crack down, but it's not consistent.”

For what it's worth, Shanahan denied making a connection between the two hits in a radio interview. Although he didn't go so far as to say Pacioretty was intentionally lying, just that he was probably a bit emotional and took things the wrong way.

Welcome to the job where you can never please anybody, Shanny.

More NHL Discipline News Here

H/t to Pro Hockey Talk

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: November 29, 2011 6:55 pm
 

Max Pacioretty disagrees with suspension



By: Adam Gretz

The NHL suspended Montreal Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty for three games on Monday for his hit on Pittsburgh's Kris Letang during Saturday's 4-3 Penguins overtime win, which ended when Letang, of all people, scored the game-winner on a controversial play in front of the Montreal net. 

On Tuesday, Pacioretty spoke to the media for the first time following the announcement and didn't seem to agree with Brendan Shanahan's decision, and also gave his version of what took place on the ice.

Pacioretty said that during his hearing, Shanahan compared the hit to one that Penguins forward Matt Cooke delivered on Boston's Marc Savard two years ago that eventually helped lead to the crackdown on hits where the head is the target and principal point of contact.

"I think that couldn't be further from the truth," said Pacioretty, via the Canadiens website (full video above). "If you look at the situation, me and Letang made eye contact and I think that's what gave me the green light to try and hit him. I felt he put himself in a vulnerable position. Maybe I shouldn't have even thought about hitting him because of the way the wind is blowing right now with head shots. I'd like to see a little bit of consistency. If the onus is on the hitter every single time I'd be fine with the suspension, but you've seen instances where they've placed the onus on the player receiving the hit as well. That's why I'm confused and a lot of other players are confused as well."
More On Max Pacioretty

He also talked about how he felt Letang lowered his head prior to the hit, and that when he looks at the play in slow motion he can see that Letang changed his position as he saw Pacioretty coming. When asked if the suspension would change the way he plays and hits people, Pacioretty acknowledged that in the future he would not deliver that hit, and also added that since the start of the season he's been afraid to hit opposing players.

"This whole year I haven't had many hits," said Pacioretty. "Bbecause, I'll be completely honest, I've been scared to hit people out there. A lot of times you're going in on the forecheck and the defenseman turns his back to you, and things of that nature happen. It's a fast game and injuries are going to happen, and that's why it's tough out there, especially for someone who is expected to finish their hits. The blame is still on me. I made a bad decision and down the road I'm definitely not going to make that hit when someone is coming through the middle. Though, I don't see why I should give him free pass to come through our zone and get a free shot on net."

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.

Posted on: November 28, 2011 7:51 pm
Edited on: November 28, 2011 8:01 pm
 

Habs' Max Pacioretty suspended three games

By Brian Stubits

There wasn't much question of if, but how many games would Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty would get for his hit over the long weekend on the Penguins' Kris Letang.

Turns out the answer is three games.

This might be the best and most descriptive video that Brendan Shanahan has issued in his tenure and time of doing these explanatory videos. As he details, Letang risked taking a big hit himself by crossing through the ice with the puck on his stick, but shouldn't have expected a hit to his head like that.

On the play, Letang suffered a broken nose and left a bloody pool on the ice. Shanahan has explained multiple times that any injury resulting from a hit will weigh into the decision. That was certainly a contributing factor here, too.

There were a lot of factors that Shanahan considered on this hit. Of the many, one was that the position of Letang's head didn't change significantly when he shot the puck and thus the onus being on Pacioretty to avoid making the head the principal point of contact.

Pacioretty will be unavailable for the team's California trip, with stops in Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.

More NHL Discipline News Here

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com