The Skate Podcast: Chris Nilan thinks Bruins are tough enough to protect Pastrnak

Matt Kalman
December 12, 2019 - 12:12 pm

With David Pastrnak taking a few more hits than usual during his hot start as the NHL’s leading goal scorer, there has been a clamoring in some corners of the fan base for the Bruins to add more toughness to their lineup.

So with that topic flying around the Bruins’ universe there was no one better to talk to on this week’s The Skate Podcast that Chris “Knuckles” Nilan, whose NHL career consisted of 688 regular-season games and 3,043 – yes three-thousand forty-three ­– penalty minutes in those games.

The Boston native had 463 penalty minutes in 80 games over two seasons with the Bruins, and now he resides in Montreal where he does radio for TSN 690.

Co-host Ken Laird dug right into the heart of the matter and asked Nilan if the Bruins need to acquire some to protect Pastrnak:

“I don’t think there’s an argument. Are they tough enough, do you need a protector? I mean that game is gone. That game is so far gone. I know there’s a couple teams in the league, like Washington’s got [Tom> Wilson, Ryan Reaves out in Vegas, but basically that game is gone. And you know, toughness should be team toughness. It’s the way you play, the physicality, going to the net, going to the corners, being able to come out with the puck, being able to battle on the boards. That’s tough, you know, it’s not necessarily fighting or having a protector guy. Believe me, I get it, you’ve got somebody in the lineup like that, some guys may think twice, but again, it’s not like it used to be and I don’t think there’s an argument there.”

One team Nilan doesn’t think is tough is the Montreal Canadiens, who in his eyes lack the size to survive in the postseason despite the fine coaching work of former Bruins bench boss Claude Julien:

“I think personnel is the issue here, size is the issue here. They don’t have the team that I believe can compete in a playoff game, maybe seven of them, like the Bruins had to compete in last year in the Stanley Cup.

“I try to picture a guy like Jonathan Drouin playing in a game like that and I’m like ‘I don’t think so. I don’t think he’s going to be effective in a game like that.’ Now he can be on the right team and being insulated … have guys around him that are able to battle along the boards, that are able to hang on to the puck in difficult situations, able to make plays under duress. I believe they have a lot of players like that and they’re not insulated.”

Nilan also reflected on the recent abuse scandals that have cost some NHL coaches their jobs. While sympathizing with the victims, Nilan recalled that when he had problems with his coaches he handled them the same way he handled matters on the ice – aggressively:

“My whole thing is, if a coach kicked me in the helmet, you’re going to get it right back. I’ve always been like that, I’ve been true to myself. I know who I am and you know I would never let someone do that to me, I don’t care if I was a rookie, I don’t care if I was around for five years or if I was in the league for 14 years. And if I ever had a problem with a coach I always took it up with him eye to eye. I’ve had a couple problems with different coaches, and you know I was very blunt with them, I was as blunt with them as they were with me.”

Laird and co-host Matt Kalman also talked about Bruins matters, including the second-line right wing position, Torey Krug’s ongoing situation and whether Taylor Hall should be a Boston trade target.

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