Max Pacioretty is at max power.
The 30-year-old forward is off to a strong start to his second season with the Vegas Golden Knights entering their game against the Nashville Predators at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday (10 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ATTSN-RM, FS-TN, NHL.TV).
He’s had multiple points in three of his past four games and has eight points (two goals, six assists) in six games.
In 5-2 win against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on Sunday, he snapped a shot bar down for a power-play goal, threaded a shot-pass onto the blade of center Paul Stastny for a power-play assist, then worked the puck up the wall and ended up with another assist on a goal by forward Mark Stone.
It is a product of health and comfort more than a year in the making.
“My body feels a lot better than it did last year at this time,” Pacioretty said before the season. “Now I’ve just got to go out there and play and put it all together.”
Pacioretty was ecstatic when the Golden Knights acquired him in a trade with the Montreal Canadiens on Sept. 9, 2018 and signed him to a four-year, $28 million contract extension.
He was joining a team that went to the Stanley Cup Final in its inaugural season of 2017-18, playing in an arena with an electric atmosphere and doing it with Stastny, his United States teammate in international hockey, with whom he had chemistry on and off the ice.
But it was a tough adjustment.
He played 10 seasons with the Canadiens and was their captain since Sept. 18, 2015, and he had taken to heart everything that came with it — the culture, the history, the pressure. He was coming off a 17-goal season, a disappointment for a five-time 30-goal scorer, and had a wife, three kids and another child on the way.
Instead of training at home in Connecticut in the offseason, he had broken routine.
“Given the whole trade talk and everything, I stayed in Montreal kind of …” Pacioretty said, his voice trailing off for a moment. “Not literally, but with my bags packed with one foot out the door thinking, ‘When is this going to happen? Where am I going to go?'”
The trade came right before training camp, which meant Pacioretty had to jump into a new team while the growing family had to jump into a new life, from school to day care to the doctor.
This wasn’t just any new team, either. These were the “Golden Misfits,” who had a unique bond after being discarded by other teams, joining an expansion team in Las Vegas and shocking the hockey world.
“This team had a ton of success,” Pacioretty said. “When I came in, I didn’t really want to disrupt that success. I wanted to add to it.
“But you know, things aren’t handed out here, and that’s probably the nicest thing about this organization. They don’t trade for a guy and then pave the way for him to have success. You’ve got to earn your stripes here. And that’s the reason why it’s hard sometimes to come into this organization.
“But once you do break through, it means a lot to yourself and your teammates to kind of earn your stripes knowing that you have what it takes to be really a Golden Misfit.”
Pacioretty missed 16 games because of injury while Stastny missed 32, which kept each of them from getting into a groove.
At least for a while.
After Vegas acquired Stone in a trade with the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 25, the line of Pacioretty, Stastny and Stone became one of the best in the NHL, if not the best. Pacioretty finished the regular season with 40 points (22 goals, 18 assists) in 66 games and had 11 points (five goals, six assists) in a seven-game loss to the San Jose Sharks in the Western Conference First Round.
This offseason, Pacioretty went back to Connecticut and his routine.
“I had a full summer knowing where I’m going to be,” Pacioretty said. “I didn’t really have one foot out the door. I was able to set up a schedule and train correctly the entire summer and not really worry about stuff away from the rink that was out of my control.”
The difference was noticeable in training camp and the preseason.
“He’s just more comfortable this year, I think,” Stastny said. “A little stronger, I think. More powerful.
“I think last year, we had some injuries, so he played with different linemates all the time. [His injuries] were kind of nagging.
“He feels real healthy lower-body wise, and you can see it, whether it’s in the gym, whether it’s at practice or in the games. That explosiveness that he has, knowing him for six, seven, eight years, I haven’t seen in a while.”
We’re seeing it on a nightly basis now.