Pastrnak’s Game On the Rise

Boston, MA — Riding a seven-game point streak, in which he has 10 goals and 7 assists, David Pastrnak has been playing some of the best hockey of his career. The sixth-year Czech forward topped the 300 point plateau in Tuesday night’s 4-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. Pastrnak accomplished this feat in 329 games. In doing so he joins an elite club of Bruins players to have scored 300 points in less than 350 games played. Bobby OrrRay BourqueBarry Pederson, and now David Pastrnak. Impressive.

Despite the statistical acumen there’s always been questions about Pastrnak’s game. Whether it’s his defensive zone play, his compete level, or his maturity both on and off the ice. So far this season, those questions haven’t been asked. Through the first nine games of 2019-20 the questions being asked are can he keep it up or can he be stopped?

The first-round pick, 25th overall, in 2014 has eight goals in his last four games. He scored all four in the Bruins 4-2 win over Anaheim last Monday. Tuesday night’s goal in the first period against Toronto, could have, should have, would have been his first of the period if not for Mike Babcock using a Coaches Challenge to have Pastrnak’s goal at 10:48 over-turned for offsides. “I’m not very happy about that one,” Pastrnak said after the game.

He more than made up for it with the goal that stood. Taking a Brad Marchand pass to the right of Toronto goalie Michael Hutchinson, Pastrnak walked in along the goal line, with his back to goal, stuck his stick between his legs and flicked the puck through the body and arm of Hutchinson for the 1-0 Bruins lead at 17:15.

“It was probably instinct,” said the 23-year-old when asked if the play was instinct or a set move. “I tried it in practice a couple of times and it didn’t work but it worked today. It was kind of a lucky goal.”

He also assisted on Marchand’s goal in the second period. Pastrnak’s pass was also a thing of beauty. He carried the puck out from behind the Leafs net, up along the boards, turned and fired a pass right to Marchand through three Leafs and Patrice Bergeron. Marchand snapped the puck home for a 2-1 lead.

Pastrnak was asked about his milestone, as well as Tuukka Rask‘s 500th game for the Bruins and Bruce Cassidy‘s 200th as Bruins coach. He said he was aware of those but not his own. “I had no idea. It appeared on Jumbotron and I was kind of shocked. It’s nice obviously and you can see the time flies.”

His coach was singing his praises after the game. “Everything catches my eye with him lately,” said Cassidy. “He’s just on it, he’s on pucks, he’s strong, his conditioning seems great. He’s playing a lot of minutes, hard minutes against good players every night. Play-making ability, he’s making plays as well, getting his shot off. I think last year he was fighting the puck a little bit in the playoffs, for whatever reason. I think it was rust to be honest with you, a few times late in the year. He’s spot on this year.”

Cassidy was asked about Pastrnak’s ability to be balanced between creative play and scoring. “I think he’s stronger on the puck so he can be a little more creative,” said the third-year coach. “Maybe when he first broke in, he tried some of those moves, he’d get — not hit, but, you know, a piece of him, and he wasn’t able to hang on to it, so it’d come back the other way. Now, he can turn out of some of those, absorb some of the hit and still make the play. So some of it’s just physical strength, he’s able to have the puck longer. Confidence, obviously, right now he’s confident with his moves. Like that spin move to the front of the net, so that has a little bit to do with it. Right now, when you’re feeling it, you tend to make a lot of right decisions. When you’re not feeling it, seems like every decision you make isn’t good, when there’s some level of risk-reward, so that’s part of it. Probably comfort in the league helps, he’s had record success. Put all those things together and I think he’s valued the other part of the game too when to not put your teammates in a bad spot, more maturity.”

“No, Probably not, I might be feeling the best I’ve felt so far,” said Pastrnak when asked if he was this confident before. “I’m not trying to get too high or too low. Just trying to get focused the same way and get ready for the next game.”

His line-mate, Marchand, joked about Pastrnak’s ability compared to his own after setting him up on that creative power play goal. “No, I kind of know where my skills are, that’s not in mine,” said Marchand. “I know that if I tried that I’d face plant. It’s just worth it to embarrass myself. I do that enough in other ways, so I’ll leave that to skill guys. I’ll grind it out.”

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