2019-20 Player Review: Max Pacioretty returned to 30-goal form in second season with Vegas

But an iffy postseason has the winger’s name circulating in the rumor mill.

In the 2019-20 Player Review series, we revisit and evaluate the individual performances of Vegas Golden Knights players from last year’s regular season and extended playoff format. NOTE: Only skaters who played in at least 20 games will be included.

Max Pacioretty was acquired in a trade from Montreal back in September of 2018, at which point he quickly signed a four-year, $28 million extension. That contract kicked in this past season, and Pacioretty proved why he was worth $7 million a year as he led the Vegas Golden Knights in scoring in the regular season. He was on his way to setting a career high in points before play was shut down in March, but injuries seemingly played a role in a disappointing postseason showing.

Season in review

Technically, 2019-20 was a bit of a mixed bag for Pacioretty, as his less-than-optimal playoff effort did put a damper on an otherwise fantastic campaign.

But it’s important not to lose sight of his regular-season performance; after all, the 32-year-old winger arguably was the team’s best offensive player for much of the year.

He led Vegas in goals (32), points (66), power-play goals (8) and power-play points (19), and he finished second in assists (34) and game-winning goals (5). He did that despite maintaining a 10.4 percent shooting percentage, down from his career average of 11 percent and his 11.52 percent mark in 2018-19.

He ranked first among Vegas forwards (min. 20 games) in shot share (59.82 percent), expected goal share (62.15 percent), scoring chance share (61.58 percent) and high-danger Corsi (62.72 percent) while ranking second in Corsi For percentage (58.98), goal share (58.33 percent) and high-danger goal share (59.18 percent), all at 5-on-5.

He finished the year with 1.71 goals per 60 at 5-on-5, the best on the team among regular skaters, and also was first in individual expected goals per 60 (1.02).

Hitting the 30-goal threshold for the first time as a Knight and first time since 2016-17 marked a significant bounce-back performance following an underwhelming 22-goal, 40-point first season in the desert.

In fact, there were times when the New Caanan, Connecticut native was nothing short of dominant.

December was truly a month to remember, as Pacioretty had a four-game goal streak that extended to a six-game point streak (Dec. 10-19) during which he collected five goals and 10 points, and he followed that up with a five-game point streak (Dec. 23-Jan. 2), recording seven points in that stretch.

He also was red-hot in February, managing yet another six-game point streak as he picked up nine goals and 16 points in the span of 13 games. In the 71-game regular season, Pacioretty had 16 multi-point performances, including two three-point games and one four-point game, and he scored multiple points in three straight games in mid-November.

His consistent production and lethal chemistry with Mark Stone paid dividends for Vegas, and with 45 points in 47 games by early January, Pacioretty was rewarded with his first All-Star Game appearance.

But that reliable, elite play did not extend to the playoffs.

Ongoing injuries forced Pacioretty to miss the round-robin tournament as well as Game 2 of the first-round series against Chicago, and he was never fully healthy, which contributed to his meager eight-point output in 16 games.

To be fair, most players not named Shea Theodore eventually struggled offensively in the return-to-play portion of the season. But it was a particularly stark contrast to Pacioretty’s regular-season production and his dominant display in the playoff series-that-must-not-be-named from 2018-19 in which Pacioretty chipped in five goals and 11 points in seven postseason games; the drop from a 1.57 points-per-game pace to 0.5 was a noticeable step back.

Interestingly, Pacioretty managed more expected goals per 60 in the 2019-20 playoffs (4.55) than in the regular season (3.92), but he went goalless in the final eight games before Vegas was eliminated by Dallas in the Western Conference Final.

Standout moment

Pacioretty’s play was outstanding throughout the season, but perhaps his most memorable goal came in the final second of a stunning victory against Nashville.

With just 0.3 seconds remaining in regulation, Stone sent a no-look behind-the-back feed to Pacioretty, who found twine just before time expired.

Vegas went on to complete the comeback with a 4-3 overtime win.

When thinking of his more skilled plays, however, it’s hard to overlook his game-winning overtime goal in a December matchup against Dallas.

Pacioretty lifted the Knights to victory 51 seconds into extra time with a gorgeous move on Ben Bishop, leaving the entire net wide open for the finish. Theodore set up the play with a perfect stretch pass, and Pacioretty took care of the rest.

Looking ahead

Pacioretty’s name has been included in trade rumors as the Knights look to alleviate cap concerns created by the signing of Alex Pietrangelo, but he remains one of Vegas’ best offensive threats. Assuming Vegas doesn’t elect to move him before the start of the season, Pacioretty should slot in on the top line with Stone and (likely) Cody Glass. He’ll look to follow up on one of his best seasons in the NHL as he aims to hit 30 goals for the seventh time in his career.

How would you grade Max Pacioretty’s performance in Year 3?

C or below0

Statistics courtesy of NaturalStatTrick and NHL.com.