“Six points in a Stanley Cup playoff game with a hat trick? That’s special.” Special was an understatement from Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy following a historic night for first-line winger David Pastrnak. Pastrnak ended the night with six points in a Bruins 7-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs which has them heading to the Air Canada Centre with a 2-0 series lead.
Pastrnak became the youngest player in NHL history to record six or more points in a playoff game, passing the record set by Wayne “The Great One” Gretzky in 1983 in a division final against Calgary. Passing Gretzky in any manner is no easy feat, but the historic markers didn’t end there. Through two games in the series, Pastrnak has collected nine points which ties former Bruin Phil Esposito for most points in two games.
Much like many other NHL players, Pastrnak has clearly turned it up a few notches for the playoff, but the 21-year-old Czech has been on another level the entire season. He finished off the regular season with a career-high 35 goals and 45 assists and he was one of only two Bruins to play all 82 games.
When asked how Pastrnak has risen to such a level this postseason versus last year’s season-ending series against the Ottawa Senators, Cassidy had quite the list. “More comfortable in NHL playoff hockey, for one,” Cassidy said. He also mentioned Pastrnak’s maturity after experiencing last year’s postseason along with the development in his game. “He’s stronger in general,” said the bench boss. “Some of its maturity physically, some of its maturity mentally knowing what to expect in the playoffs.”
That maturity was evident with Pastrnak’s first goal as it required a lot of patience on his part. He jumped on a deflected puck off a Torey Krug pass and kept the bouncing puck on his backhand on the heel of his stick as he waited for enough space to shoot. His accuracy was spot on as he got the Bruins on the board about five minutes into the game.
Pastrnak also had plenty to say during the press conference which featured himself and linemate Patrice Bergeron, who had four assists in his own right, when talking about his motivation and dealing with playoff pressure. “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 leader to a great job with us young guys […] 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.”
That bunch of “young guys” comprised of Pastrnak and rookies Charlie McAvoy, Jake DeBrusk, Danton Heinen, and Matt Grzelcyk has carried the Bruins throughout the season as they battled injuries and a revolving door between Boston and their AHL affiliate team in Providence.
It is clear from his regular season performance and the post-season thus far that the 2014 draft first-rounder is a weapon offensively, as is his whole line. Pastrnak is a winger on the Bergeron line which also features NHL agitator Brad Marchand, a line which has combined for 20 points in two post-season games, 14 of which came during Saturday’s win.
Those 20 points have been the stuff of nightmares for Toronto head coach Mike Babcock who couldn’t help but acknowledge the success of the line after the game. “They’re dominating us. I thought we got off to a pretty good start, and the pucks still went in the net, so give them credit for playing really well,” said Babcock. “That line has been good on the power play, been good five-on-five, been good at the net scoring.” They’ve been good at everything all year and have developed into arguably the best line in the NHL.
Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews had much less to say on the matter as he stated: “I don’t know, s—t happens, I guess.”
Bergeron put it best when he said Pastrnak’s skill and desire for the puck “amazes” 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.”
If Pastrnak keeps wanting it this badly, he may drive the Bruins all the way to the Stanley Cup Final and beyond. Only time will tell what other records he can break and Bruins fans are eagerly waiting for it.