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Stu Cowan: Habs' Max Pacioretty must learn to block out the negativity

Social media can be a cruel place when you’re captain of the Canadiens and your team gets eliminated in the playoffs.

It’s even worse when it happens in the first round and the captain doesn’t score any goals in six games against the New York Rangers.

Max Pacioretty is being called “Patio-ready” — and worse — on social media, where there’s also a “Missing” sign with his photo on it and the words “Responds to ‘Patches’ ” and “Please return to Claude Julien or Marc Bergevin.”  

The mainstream media can also be tough, but the truth sometimes hurts. Pacioretty failed to score a goal against the Rangers and is a big reason why the Canadiens were eliminated — but definitely not the only one. He’s also one of the biggest reasons they made the playoffs, leading the team in goals (35) and points (67) during the regular season.

But when you’re captain of the Canadiens, you are a very large target when things go wrong.

Pacioretty cares deeply about the Canadiens and his role as captain. He was on the verge of tears following the Game 6 elimination and talked about the people who had supported him during the series.

“The people who reached out to me, it meant a lot,” Pacioretty said after the game. “I know my job is to score goals and help this team offensively and it wasn’t there. But I can only thank the people enough who stood by me and supported me through this.”

One thing that would really help Pacioretty moving forward is if he could take some advice from former teammate P.K. Subban and Skate Past the Noise. That’s the title of the narcissistic documentary on Subban that came out after he was traded to Nashville last summer.

One of Subban’s strongest qualities is that he doesn’t let anything outside the arena affect his play — whether it was a GM and coach in Montreal who didn’t like his style on the ice, teammates and fans who didn’t like him, or Boston Bruins fans who taunted him with racist comments. The more pressure on Subban, the better he played.

Pacioretty, on the other hand, pays way too much attention to what’s being said and written about him. It was after a 3-2 OT loss to the Rangers in Game 5 when the captain talked about having to “tune out all this noise” and added: “I think we’ve done an OK job of, I guess, tuning out the negativity this far.”

Unless there’s negativity in the locker room, Pacioretty shouldn’t be listening to any of it outside. Of course, that’s much easier said than done since nobody likes to be criticized.

If the Canadiens make the playoffs next season with Pacioretty as captain, they might want to get him a Cone of Silence like the one used in the old TV comedy series Get Smart.

“I know what’s going on … I know what’s being said just by the questions that are being asked,” Pacioretty said Monday in Brossard. “That’s fine … I don’t have any problems with that. But you’ll never be able to completely block it out and that’s just part of the business. But the motivating part of being in Montreal is you never really get the full satisfaction. You’re only as good as your last game. But I’d much rather have that than be in a place where guys don’t care at all about how you play. In this day and age, with everyone having an opinion and being able to be voiced by social media and whatnot, you’re going to know that you’re going to get both sides of it every day, but that’s OK.

“It’s what takes a special type of player to be a Montreal Canadien and maybe I didn’t understand that at first. Then you see so many guys come and go who let it get to them. But I don’t see a reason why we should let it get to us, especially when you see the support that we have at the Bell Centre in the playoffs. You just can’t compare that to any other building. I guess it’s a way of spinning it into a positive, but there is no place like Montreal. No better place to play.”

There’s also no worse place when things go bad.