Even David Pastrnak’s slumps are superstar caliber for Bruins

Matt Kalman
November 11, 2019 - 12:46 am

Guess David Pastrnak isn’t going to score 82 goals and accumulate 164 points this season.

Or at least he’s not on pace to do anymore.

After scoring 15 goals and adding 15 assists through the Bruins’ first 15 games, Pastrnak had gone two games without a point after he was blanked in Boston’s 3-2 shootout loss to Philadelphia at TD Garden on Sunday.

Oh the humanity!

But here’s where things stand in the 23-year-old sniper’s career. Gone are the days when he slumps (is two point-less games even a slump) and disappears at both ends of the ice. In the loss at Detroit on Friday, Pastrnak had five shots on net and would’ve had an assist on Patrice Bergeron’s goal had they credited three assists on the score.

Against the Flyers, he had four more shots on net as part of his nine attempts. He was mucking it up down low before Brad Marchand scored his game-tying goal in the third period. Maybe the only thing that could really qualify Pastrnak’s recent play as a slump is that twice he had the game on his stick against the Flyers, and he came up short.

First came a third-period penalty shot, that ended with him overthinking things and winding up taking a no-angle forehand shot from the right of the slot that goaltender Carter Hart easily stopped.

Then in the shootout he took the puck wide to the left and attacked Hart with a backhand shot that also stayed out, giving the Flyers a 1-0 victory in the post-overtime spectacle.

Pastrnak was the third shooter and was looking for revenge after the failed penalty shot.

“I talked to Pasta today about it. He had a penalty shot earlier, so does that help you or hurt you getting one practice run. I still think he’s good at it,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said about Pastrnak, who’s now 3-for-19 in his NHL career in shootouts and 1-for-2 on penalty shots.

Pastrnak was eager to get a second chance to solve Hart.

“I mean you know I’m just going to go any time Bruce calls me, you know. I’m confident every time I step on the ice to score,” he said. “You know obviously there’s a million thoughts you have in your head, you pick the wrong one, I had to two chances to win it, but I think nothing big, I think we battled back pretty good and you know there we go with shootouts again. It’s 50-50 always, and hopefully the next one’s going to go our way.”

In the past, if Pastrnak wasn’t scoring other parts of his game might suffer and he might see his ice time cut. Instead he skated 21:58 on Sunday after exceeding 23 minutes in a regulation game Friday. That’s a sign Cassidy likes the way Pastrnak is taking care of the Bruins’ end and minding the details of his game. He was charged with three giveaways, which aren’t like most players’ giveaways – Pastrnak has shown he can complete high-risk plays, so he attempts high-risk plays.

Like Pastrnak’s play, and even that of his linemates Bergeron and Brad Marchand (who sprung Pastrnak for the breakaway that led to the penalty shot after tying the game himself with a wrist shot past Hart), the Bruins’ ability to come back from 2-0 down to earn a point was something to build on.

But having lost three in a row for the first time this season, including the prior two games in regulation, the Bruins have plenty to work on. If they’re in another shootout, they may want to be unorthodox with their shooter choices because they’re now 0-2 as a team and haven’t scored on any of their shot attempts.

They may want to rethink their defense pairs, which started with Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk joined before Cassidy put McAvoy back with Zdeno Chara and Grzelcyk back with Clifton. McAvoy got a little carried away with the freedom he’s supposed to have while playing with Grzelcyk and got caught deep in the offensive zone, leading to a 3-on-1 and Philadelphia’s first goal.

Breakouts have become a struggle again, and the Flyers were getting too many scoring chances below the dots through the first two periods while outshooting Boston 20-10. The Bruins cleaned up some of that in the third period.

Pastrnak said he didn’t think opponents were defending against him and his linemates any differently than they did when the Bruins’ first line was torching anyone that got in his way. But he did admit that as the defending Eastern Conference champions, the Bruins are getting the opposition’s best effort every night.

That’s sure to continue Tuesday when the Florida Panthers come to Boston. What’s also probable to continue is Pastrnak’s well-rounded game that makes a positive impact even when he’s not scoring and even when he can’t singlehandedly get the Bruins two points.

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