Regardless of whether the Bruins make a Stanly Cup run or not, David Pastrnak’s Game 2 performance against the Maple Leafs will go down as one of the best individual nights in NHL playoff history.
By the end of the night, Pastrnak joined quite the exclusive group with a six-point night that included his first career postseason hat trick. Not only did he join former Bruins Rick Middleton and Phil Esposito in that six-point club, but the 21-year-old became just the fifth player in the last 20 years to tally six points in one game — a list that includes Claude Giroux, Patrik Elias, Geoff Courtnal and Johan Franzen.
Oh, and Pastrnak became the youngest player to accomplish such a feat (21 years, 324 days) surpassing the ‘Great One’ himself, Wayne Gretzky (22 years, 81 days).
“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,” head coach Bruce Cassidy said about Pastrnak’s performance following the Bruins’ 7-3 victory Saturday night. “Maybe it is when you look back, but time will tell.”
This time around, Pastrnak is getting more comfortable with postseason hockey. The 2014 first round selection got his feet wet against the Ottawa Senators last spring with a four-point showing in six games.
Though Pastrnak showed some promise, the Ottawa series was quite frustrating. As the team suffered injuries at the worst time of the season, the then interim coach Cassidy was forced to use a top heavy line of Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. Even with a couple of goals, Pastrnak and company had difficulties trying to solve the Sens’ 1-3-1 trap.
With one postseason, a new contract, and a career year under his belt, Pastrnak entered this year’s postseason with a little more seasoning. With nine points in two games, Pastrnak is finding time and space against the Leafs D and getting into an early postseason groove.
“I felt a little bit of pressure to be honest, but I liked it,” Pastrnak recalled about last year’s series with Ottawa. “I played with great players in a great team and we’re playing well now. It’s very easy for me to follow up the team. I think our leaders do a great job with us young guys. You guys know we have a lot of them. So, they prepare us well so do the coaches and I think that’s huge. We have a lot of guys who want it and they know what it takes.
“More comfortable in NHL playoff hockey, for one,” Cassidy added about Pastrnak. “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…”
Well, Pastrnak is making it look easy. Skating with the dynamic duo of Bergeron and Marchand can only help that cause. The trio will enter Game 3 as the first, second and third leading postseason scorers — combining for a whopping 20 points.
Had things gone according to plan at training camp, Pastrnak would’ve stayed with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line. That would’ve been a formidable trio in and of itself. Instead, Pastrnak, Bergeron and Marchand have formed arguably the best line in the National Hockey League.
“I don’t know. We are playing great as a line and we’ve been together for a while. We’ve faced it every game this season and we want to get better every game,” Pastrnak said. “We don’t think about the other team we try to do our best and play simple and play pretty fast. I think we don’t think about what’s going to happen, just what we can do and what we can control.”
Being in control is no easy task skating with Bergeron and Marchand. Skating with the duo involves finding time and space establishing puck possession, holding your own defensively and forechecking aggressively in all three zones.
“Yeah, you know, I think the offensive stuff, we’ve come to expect,” Krug said about Pastrnak. “I think everyone’s excited when you see him play a complete game. You know, he’s chipping pucks out of the zone, he’s battling on the boards, he’s coming back and taking away plays in the slot, so that gets everyone on the bench going, and we’re excited to see that and then he’s getting rewarded for it.”
Pastrnak, while not known for his defensive game, has improved in that area since his rookie season. His offensive creativity and puck pursuit continue to amaze as he aims at becoming that 200-foot well-rounded player.
Both Bergeron and Marchand have that 200-foot game down to a science. The two, however, couldn’t be happier for Pastrnak’s progression and his historic performance in Game 2.
“Yeah, hell of a night. You know he is an awesome player. He has been great for us all year,” Marchand said about his fellow first line winger. “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.”
“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 added.
“That’s what amazes me with 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 than he’s learning from us.”
In the opening weekend of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the league is also learning a few things about David Pastrnak that they didn’t know beforehand.
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