Back in May, I mused as to what David Pastrnak’s new contract might look like. Would the Bruins lock him up for as long as possible or convince themselves they still needed to see more from the young stud? Would they offer market value (estimated to be anywhere between $7-9 million) or add another chapter to their continuing saga of questionable allocation of precious finances? Was it possible that his next contract would come from a separate team altogether?
Things around Bruins Nation became tense as the days turned into weeks, waiting, hoping, fearing the worst.
There was a collective exhale on the second day of training camp, with “Pasta” inking his shockingly team-friendly six-year, $40 million deal. With one stroke of the pen, Boston’s burgeoning star laid waste to any concerns regarding his future in The Hub, not to mention his team’s long-term fiscal and offensive outlook.
Through 15 contests, a deal that already looked to be a bargain has morphed into a Dave Roberts-caliber steal. Pastrnak leads the team in goals (ten), points (17) and is tied for the team lead in assists (seven).
Last season’s 70-point eruption was no fluke. As he continues his ascent into the league’s upper echelon it has become abundantly clear that he is worth every single penny.
Consistent, Unadulterated Production
For a Bruins lineup beset on all sides by injury, Pastrnak’s play has been both the team’s greatest blessing as well as it’s most reliable component. His totals are impressive but are made even more so considering the circumstances.
With the team minus it’s most reliable forward (Patrice Bergeron) for the season’s first five contests, the young Czech helped to shoulder the load, recording three goals, four points and a team-high 15 shots-on-goal. During the one blessed contest in which Boston was able to ice both Bergeron and David Krejci, he registered two points. In the six contests between Krejci’s and Brad Marchand’s injuries his four goals and seven points paced the team. With both Krejci and Marchand shelved for two games he registered one goal and three points.
Regardless of who’s injured or who his linemates are, the barely-old-enough-to-drink Pastrnak has produced; consistently and in bushels.
Fellow countryman, Krejci, has seen his name dragged through the mud in recent years. His frustration over a revolving door of linemates prompted as much criticism as sympathy. After all, with a $7.25 million cap hit many wondered aloud why he wasn’t elevating the play of his linemates as opposed to being the beneficiary of more talent around him.
With Pastrnak, no such quandary exists. He has nine points at even strength, eight on the power play and has seen no discernible dip in production regardless of his linemates or assignment. For a 21-year-old, that’s exceptional reliability.
Learning Curve & Response
Much (too much) was made of Bruce Cassidy’s postgame comments regarding “Pasta’s” play following the contest against the Minnesota Wild. Following an effective first-forty which included the primary assist on a Torey Krug tally he, well, he had a bad period.
An ugly, unnecessary turnover in the defensive zone, allowed the Wild to climb back into the contest. Next, a turnover at the offensive-zone blue line on the power play turned into a penalty shot. Finally, a tricky play once again at the offensive-zone blue line sent Eric Staal on yet another Minnesota breakaway, this one pulling a once down-and-out Wild squad to within one goal.
Though the first turnover was “U-G-L-Y, he ain’t got no alibi,” the subsequent two were just hockey plays gone wrong. Those happen to players of all shapes and sizes; Ray Bourque made mistakes too. They’re merely teaching points for a player whose talent exceeds his experience.
How did Pastrnak respond to being called-out?
I just need to play more simple in the D-zone and not try to make plays. Sometimes the only play I have, it’s chip or flip out. I know I can do that job as well as I do in the offensive zone. So it’s on me to get better. I’m not worrying about it. I care, and I will get better at it.
-David Pastrnak (Stephen Harris, Boston Herald) November 7, 2017
Perfect. It’s music to a coach’s ears. He then went on to factor in on both of Boston’s goals (one goal, one assist) in the team’s next game, followed by another goal versus the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night. He is coachable, committed and in possession of a short memory, not to mention exceptional talent.
Turnovers Come With the Territory
Bad habits can creep into a player’s game when things are going well. When the puck is finding you and you’re getting the bounces it’s common for a young, talented player to get a little cute with their approach; an extra pass here, an unnecessary risk there…basically, being guilty of “feeling it” a little too much.
But David Pastrnak is the type of player who needs to be “feeling it” to be David Pastrnak. He’s exuberant. Every moment he spends on the ice looks like he’s having the most fun of his life, perhaps even more so before games while interacting with some young fans (of the other team, no less).
But beyond being Boston’s resident Golden Retriever, he’s also arguably the team’s most electric playmaker, meaning get him the puck. Let him skate, dangle, create, process the game in manners exclusive to the elite players. That means seizing opportunities to be creative. It’s not about never turning the puck over, it’s about recognizing and refraining from taking unnecessary risks.
It stands to reason, that more time with the puck will lead to more turnovers, regardless of talent. Everyone in the NHL is a professional, sometimes you win, sometimes they win.
Here’s a quick list of some of last season’s most turnover-prone players: Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson, Johnny Gaudreau, Drew Doughty, Joe Pavelski, Brad Marchand and John Tavares.
Get used to turnovers. Get used to 40 goal seasons. One’s not so bad with the other.
Related: Bruins’ Costly Lack of Composure
The Sky Is The Limit
The only lamentable facet of the Bruins-Pastrnak union is that it’s not contractually obligated to last beyond six years. That term was necessary to secure an annual cap hit that the front office was comfortable with. Credit Don Sweeney for locking up a stud long-term at such a bargain, but send some credit “Pasta’s” way as well. He knows he could have received more. Instead, he chose not to rock the boat, get back to work, make his millions, score tons of goals and hit unrestricted free agency at 27 years old. Well played.
Given all that he has accomplished, it’s easy to forget that he’s actually younger than Danton Heinen. He’s a mere three months older than Anders Bjork. He’s only going to get better; and better.
His team is badly nicked-up. Somehow they’ve managed at least a point in eight of their last ten contests in spite of it. Were it not for the best bargain Boston has seen since the Rolling Stones played The Garden ($10 tickets), who knows where they would be?
As his team rounds back into health, he will be able to transition from keeping his team afloat to propelling them forward. He’s a star. Get used to it.