David Pastrnak’s stat line for eight playoff games so far reads two goals, four assists for six points. Now, that’s not a horrible total for the post-season, when the time and space is far more limited than in the 82-game regular season.
But Pastrnak has become an elite goalscorer in the NHL, and more is expected of him, especially when you consider that both his goals came in the same game, a Game 4 victory in the Toronto series.
Coach Bruce Cassidy, who bounced Pastrnak between the Patrice Bergeron line and the David Krejci line in the Game 1 victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets, believes he can help himself by being better in the grittier parts of the game. And, of course, by using his best weapon — his shot
“(He has to do) the things he’s done all year, which is be hard on the puck, second effort around the net, play inside, look to shoot, to funnel,” said Cassidy. “I thought he was physical in certain games earlier in the playoffs when it was required. Win his puck battles on the wall. We’re not that down on Pasta. Obviously the goal total, he scored two goals in the one game and none in the others. Some of that is the way it goes sometimes, with how some of the teams check him. We just want to make sure he’s staying positive and being a contributor for us and eventually I think he’ll score. That’s how he’s made some of his best contributions obviously. We’ll see where he ends up (Saturday) and go from there.”
The B’s went 0-for-4 on the power-play (7:18 of man-advantage time) and part of that could be directly linked to fact that Pastrnak had just two shots on net for the whole game.
“I find he’s a little more hesitant on the power-play, on the elbow, just ripping it on the net,” said Cassidy. “I think they’re getting in his shooting lane and there’s some opportunity to go back door with (Marcus) Johansson or Jake (DeBrusk) or (Brad Marchand). (On Thursday) night we missed one. He made a hell of a play to Marchie on a play that was just tipped wide. That might be a little bit about what’s available.
“So in that areas I guess there’s not as much volume. He did shoot one that ended up rattling around and Marchie hits the crossbar. So we’re going to encourage him to keep pounding the puck on the net. Usually there’s not a lot of bad things that happen when you shoot the puck, especially the way he does. But it could be guys are closing a little quicker on him, too.”
If Cassidy was concerned about Pastrnak’s frame of mind, the 22-year-old Czech seemed to be his usual happy-go-lucky self when he met with reporters on Friday. Winning certainly helps with the disposition. And Pastrnak, who had thumb surgery at the end of February, also said he felt 100 percent physically.
But Pastrnak — whose usually magical stickhandling has not been present for much of the post-season, either — did seem receptive to at least some of Cassidy’s advice.
“I would maybe like myself to shoot a little bit more,” said Pastrnak. “I’ve passed on a couple of shots, but that’s normal. Sometimes I just think the pass is better. But I have to get back to shooting the puck more.”
The Jackets also have some beef on the back end. Five of the six blue liners coach John Tortorella employed on Thursday were 6-2 or bigger.
“They’ve got good defensive players, but it’s still the same guys you’ve played against the whole season. You just have to find a way to trick them, go around them and try to put the pucks to the net,” said Pastrnak.
The health of Krejci will have a direct bearing on Pastrnak. Krejci, with whom he’s played the most since Game 4 of the Toronto series, is officially listed as day-to-day with what looked like a shoulder injury he suffered on an open-ice hit from former Bruin Riley Nash. If Krejci is unavailable for Game 2 on Saturday, that could mean Pastrnak would bump back up to the Bergeron-Marchand, on which he’s had most of his success this year.
A potential loss of Krejci would also mean that getting more production from Pastrnak is even more imperative.
The B’s survived Game 7 against Toronto and Game 1 against Columbus because of their secondary scoring. But it’s called secondary scoring for a reason. Teams need their big guns to produce and, in terms of goal-scoring, Pastrnak is the biggest gun the B’s have.