BOSTON – There’s something special about your favorite meal being served at that special time of year or for a special occasion. That meal tastes great all year, but whether it’s a holiday or an annual family get together, there are times when you savor it more. That may just be the case with Bruins forward David Pastrnak. The B’s and their fans love themselves a healthy portion of ‘Pasta’ (as he’s affectionately known by teammates and fans) during the regular season, but it tastes so much better during the Stanley Cup Playoffs when it counts the most!
Pastrnak is proving that in the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs as he has tied the NHL and Bruins record for most points in the first two games of the postseason, held by Hall of Famer Phil Esposito (1969), with four goals and five assists for nine points. Pastrnak followed up a four-point (1g, 3a), night in Game 1 with a hat trick and three helpers in Game 2 to lead his team to a 5-1 win over Toronto and 2-0 series lead in their quarterfinals series with their divisional rival.
David Pastrnak completes the hat trick with this beauty. Six points tonight pic.twitter.com/28nSpSLmXU
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 15, 2018
It was a ‘Hello! I’m here and I’ve arrived’ type moment and definitely one of those nights where fans, his teammates, the league and his coach were reminded just how skilled the 21-year old forward is. After struggling to handle the rigors and intensity of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey last spring – when he had two goals and two assists in six games against the Ottawa Senators, Pastrnak also has shown that he can adapt and use his elite skills during the playoffs.
“He’s more comfortable in NHL playoff hockey, for one,” said head coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think last year was his first go around. Ottawa plays a stingy game, as we know, so it’s harder for those skill guys to find their ice and find creases and time and space. I think he was aware going in that it’s not easy, so I’m going to have to make sure I take advantage of my opportunities when I do find the ice.
Breakthrough night? It’s a good term. You could look back and say it is. I mean, six points in a Stanley Cup Playoff game with a hat trick, that’s special. Maybe it is when you look back, but time will tell. Certainly, I think he’s more mature because of his previous experience last year. He’s stronger in general. We’ve talked about the difference in his game this year on pucks. He can escape some hits, he can absorb 20 percent of a hit, stay on his feet and keep his momentum, 30 percent, 40 percent, whereas, in the past, some of that knocked him off stride. Some of its maturity physically, some of its maturity mentally knowing what to expect in the playoffs.”
Linemate Patrice Bergeron – who along with Pastrnak and other Brad Marchand, have combined for 20 points in the first two games of this series, has enjoyed watching Pastrnak mature into not just a budding superstar, but now a playoff performer.
“For sure, I mean, he’s got that confidence grow so he wants to be the guy, he wants to make those plays and if we don’t have the puck he hunts it back,” Bergeron said. “That’s what amazes me about him. I think there’s a lot of skilled players that are skilled when they have the puck; when they don’t have it they don’t necessarily want it as much as this guy right here.
So, I think he’s taken a tremendous step this year by the way that he plays away from the puck and you mention that – that we talk a lot about it but that being said, like you said, it’s vice versa – we learn just as much playing with him that he’s learning from us.”
As Marchand pointed out after Game 2, Pastrnak’s playoff success isn’t just coming from his raw talent and play in the offensive zone, it’s a result of his tenacious defensive play that he’s worked hard to add to his game.
“You know, he is an awesome player,” Marchand said. “He has been great for us all year. You know, he’s progressing, continually working on his game, trying to play the right way. I think that is what has been most impressive about the last couple of games isn’t so much in scoring. You know, that’s great but it’s the way he’s playing. He’s playing really well defensively, he is
chipping pucks in at the right time so when he plays the right way good things happen for him.”
When asked about the evolution of his game this season, Pastrnak wouldn’t take any credit and immediately thanked the coaching staff and praised his linemates.
“Coaches talk to me every day through the whole season and especially playing with ‘Bergy’ and ‘Marchy’ – these guys know what it takes, Pastrnak said. “To be honest I wish every young guy in the league – obviously, in the league, there are a lot of good players – I wish every young guy got to play with these two players. Take the lessons, what they have for you. For me, it’s just about listening to them and I learned a lot especially this year.”
So while he cracked the 30-goal plateau for the second straight season with 35 lamplighters this past regular season and also had a career-high 80 points in 82 games, Pastrnak’s success is tasting a lot better right now as his team is two wins away from advancing to the second round for the first time since 2014 and the first time in Pastrnak’s NHL career.