Like an on-ice King Midas, everything David Pastrnak has touched this season has turned to gold. And if he can keep this up, we could be on the verge of seeing a true breakout season from the Bruins winger.
David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand|Mark Blinch/NHLI via Getty Images
On a team that is incredibly top-heavy when it comes to scoring goals, David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins is The Man With the Golden Stick, both figuratively and literally. On the figurative side, Pastrnak goes into tonight’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs sharing the league lead in goals with James Neal (?) at nine, which represents almost half of the 22 goals the Bruins have scored this season. On the literal side, the Bauer Nexus stick Pastrnak is using this year is actually golden.
There’s little doubt that Pastrnak has established himself as one of the league’s most productive and consistent players in the past three seasons. His 116 goals since 2016-17 puts him fifth in the league in that category, while his 246 points puts him 14th. It’s no wonder that Pastrnak has not changed his summer routine, nor that he has that rather bizarre tape job of three strands of white tape on the top of the stick and three strands of black tape on end of the blade. But when Bauer offered him sticks in Bruins colors with a gold shaft, Pastrnak switched from his blue stick to the new one and it has given him the Midas touch. With nine goals on 27 shots, he has a 33.3 shooting percentage and with 15 points, he has been on a whopping 68.1 percent of Boston’s goals.
“It seems like he’s hitting it cleaner this year than the end of last year,” said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. “I think missing five weeks at the end of the year (in 2018-19), his timing was a little bit off more than his hand injury. He’s had time to work on that and get his hand back, so I think that’s a big reason.”
For his part, Pastrnak has kept the same routine for the past couple of summers, notwithstanding the fact that the summer of 2019 was a truncated off-season due to the Bruins going to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final. “To be honest, I don’t like to change things that are working,” Pastrnak said. “I’ve had the same summer practice the past three years and I don’t want to change it if it is working. I feel good on the ice.”
And it’s showing. It has long been documented that Pastrnak patrols the right side of the best line in the game, with Patrice Bergeron as the center and Brad Marchand on the left side. And that line has been the engine for a team that has gotten off to a 5-2-1 record. It would be reasonable to expect one of Pastrnak or Marchand to lead the Bruins in goals and for that line to be the one driving the bus offensively for the team. But it does have to be a little concerning for the Bruins that those three players have accounted for 15 goals, with nobody else on the roster having any more than two.
Last season, Pastrnak was on a pace that, if he hadn’t missed 16 games with a thumb injury, would have resulted in his first 100-point season. With 30-plus goals each of the past three seasons, Pastrnak could be in for a true breakout season, one in which he hangs around with the top players in the league when it comes to both goals and points. “I think last year he was on track for that,” Cassidy said. “I think he would have been a guy who would have been butting up against 50 (he was on a 41-goal pace) if he had kept his production up, if ‘Marsh’ and ‘Bergy’ stay healthy. I think some of it has to do with his linemates staying healthy and him healthy. He was close last year and it looks like this year he’s on the same path.”
That is, of course, the key for all three of the Bruins’ top forwards. Bergeron missed 17 games last season and 18 the season before. Of Pastrnak’s nine goals, six primary assists have come from Marchand and two from Bergeron. And the one unassisted goal Pastrnak has came off a broken play in which Bergeron won the faceoff. Pastrnak knows it is a long season and the production won’t always be this plentiful, but he’s happy to ride the streak while it lasts. “I don’t know, the puck is just going in, you know,” he said when asked what is different about the start of this season. “Any opportunity so far is going in for me, so it’s good. It’s hockey and there are going to be ups and downs.”
Want more in-depth features, analysis and an All-Access pass to the latest content? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.