Boston Bruins: No Pastrnak, No Problem

The Boston Bruins were in the midst of a seven-game point streak on the night of Feb. 10 when David Pastrnak fell at a team sponsorship dinner and suffered an injury to his thumb that required surgery. At the time, the injury was a devastating blow to the Bruins. Pastrnak, who was tied for ninth in the NHL with 66 points through 56 games, was the only Bruin to appear in this season’s All-Star Game and was serving a key role in Boston’s top-heavy lineup.

The non-hockey injury signaled impending doom on the horizon as it threatened to expose Boston’s lack of depth scoring. With the trade deadline approaching, many expected the Bruins to increase their role before the deadline to fill the hole left by the 22-year-old. Instead, the B’s maintained the same approach and head coach Bruce Cassidy called upon the guys he had to step-up their games in the absence of their star right-winger.

So far, the Bruins have done just that, enduring the entire month of February without a regulation loss and extending their point streak to 17 games.

Tuukka Rask Rolling

In the absence of Pastrnak, nobody has stepped up to the plate more than Tuukka Rask. The soon-to-be 32-year-old netminder is in the midst of a historic streak right now. His 1-0 shutout victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday made him just the second goalie in NHL history to record multiple career point streaks of at least 17 games.

Boston Bruins Tuukka Rask Los Angeles Kings' Carl Hagelin
Tuukka Rask has been stellar in David Pastrnak’s absence. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)

Setting history has been no fluke. Rask bounced back from a shaky month of December by going on a tear to begin the new year. He posted a .938 save percentage (SV%) and 1.91 goals-against average (GAA) in the month of January. He followed that up by earning a .923 SV% and 2.08 GAA in February and winning his first game of March in shutout fashion.

His teammates have taken notice. Patrice Bergeron had loads of praise for Rask’s play after his shutout against New Jersey.

“Poised. The poise that he has shown gives us confidence,” Bergeron said, per NESN. “He’s well positioned when facing every puck and his rebounding control is pretty amazing right now. He’s helping us out a lot. He’s bailed us out a few times, especially tonight and we’ll take that.”

Rask’s stellar play over the last few months has been exactly what the doctor ordered and has some discussing his chances at joining the Vezina Trophy race this season.

Jake DeBrusk’s Hot Streak

The re-emergence of Jake DeBrusk has been a pivotal piece of Boston’s recent streak. In the 13 games leading up to Pastrnak’s injury, DeBrusk had fallen quiet for the Bruins. Over that span, the sophomore winger tallied just three points.

His teammate’s injury seemed to strike a chord in the 22-year-old, however. In the nine games since Pastrnak’s injury, DeBrusk has caught fire, notching goals in seven games and tallying 13 points.

The young winger has averaged 3:20 of power play ice time over his streak, though only two of his goals over that span have come on the man advantage, demonstrating that his even-strength play has been much better.

His chemistry with second-line center David Krejci has been particularly noticeable lately, as was demonstrated by the beautiful tic-tac-toe goal the line netted last week against the San Jose Sharks.

Young players have a tendency to be streaky, so it’ll be interesting to see how long the Edmonton native can keep rolling. As of now, though, DeBrusk will draw some extra attention from opposing defenders.

Bruins Must Continue in Pastrnak’s Absence

Initial reports that Pastrnak would miss at least two weeks were woefully short-stated, as Cassidy announced on Feb. 25 that it would be at least an additional two more weeks before the Czech returns to the lineup. He has begun skating again, though he’s yet to return to the team’s regular practice, instead getting some work done before the team’s scheduled skate.

That being said, Cassidy told reporters on Monday that Pastrnak is “on schedule” with his recovery, but offered no timetable for his return. With four games this week and no exact date for the winger’s return, the Bruins will have to continue making up for the production that he provides.

Bruins right wing David Pastrnak
Boston has been rolling without David Pastrnak. Could the star wingers return make the Bruins a serious cup contender? (Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)

Luckily for Boston, the top line that carried them through the first half of the season has shown no signs of slowing down. Brad Marchand has accumulated 11 points in the team’s last nine games without his normal right winger, while Bergeron has eight points to his own name. Boston’s defense, most notably Charlie McAvoy, have stepped up their game as well.

Remarkably, the Bruins haven’t made up much ground on the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning despite Boston’s 17-game point streak. They have, however, built a three-point lead over the Toronto Maple Leafs for the second spot in the Atlantic Division (and the Eastern Conference as a whole). As the fight for home-ice continues, the Bruins will need to continue leaning on Rask, DeBrusk and the rest of the gang while Pastrnak recovers.