All the ways David Pastrnak's injury affects Bruins on ice, at trade deadline

Matt Kalman
February 12, 2019 - 2:14 pm

Depending on how the rest of the Bruins’ season unfolds, David Pastrnak’s after-hours fall and subsequent thumb injury Sunday will either be a obstacle the Bruins overcame on their way to glory or a deterrent that kept them from meeting their potential.

All we know in the present is that Pastrnak, who leads the Bruins in goals (31) and points (66), had a procedure Tuesday and will be re-evaluated in two weeks, which means he’ll be out of the lineup past the Feb. 25 NHL trade deadline.

Here’s a look at all the ways the 22-year-old right wing’s absence will affect coach Bruce Cassidy’s lineups and strategies, and general manager Don Sweeney’s approach to acquisitions:

A one-line team again

The Bruins are 17th in the NHL in scoring at 2.88 goals per game. And without Pastrnak in the lineup Cassidy is questioning whether Boston will have to just grind out victories at the defensive end.

“Now you’re going to the drawing board, and ‘OK what’s the best way to go about this in terms of replacing his production?’ Do we have to tighten up even more defensively instead of worrying about the lost goals? Or are we going to force people into an offensive role to try to get what David brought?” Cassidy said. “So those are the challenges for a coach. The easiest way is always to defend because that’s our culture here, but we still want to score goals and we have players here that can, so we’ve just got to find the right formula.”

For most of this season Pastrnak skated with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron on what was one of the best forward lines in the NHL. That line carried the Bruins and when other teams shut that line down, it was curtains for the Bruins.

With a fully healthy roster for the first time this season, Cassidy broke up that line that past few games – putting Pastrnak with center David Krejci and either Jake DeBrusk or Peter Cehlarik at left wing, and moving Danton Heinen up with Bergeron and Marchand.

Cassidy got the results he was looking for with Heinen scoring a couple goals and Krejci’s line becoming a threat. Now the Bruins are back to being a one-line team and are counting on Heinen to find the consistency that has eluded him throughout most of his two NHL seasons.

DeBrusk’s production will also be key to helping the Bruins survive their Pastrnak-less stint. He hasn’t scored in 13 games and a more effective DeBrusk could balance out the Bruins’ attack or be a candidate to move to Bergeron’s line if Heinen falters.

Power play drop-off

Cassidy said he’ll move Krejci into Pastrnak’s half-wall role on the Bruins’ first power-play unit. Krejci is heady player with a better shot than he often gets credit for, but he’s no Pastrnak when it comes to his explosive one-timer from all parts of the left faceoff circle. The Bruins are going to have to rely even more on Bergeron in the bumper position to be a pass-and-shot threat and hope teams aren’t able to focus too much on the middle of their formation. The Bruins rank third in the NHL with a 26.4 percent success rate on the power play and no one wants to see how ugly they’re offense can be without a potent power play.

The first group is going to have added pressure because the second group will be quintet of players that haven’t played together much and won’t have Krejci to orchestrate its plays. We could see more power-play time for Heinen, Cehlarik and David Backes.

Lineup juggling

The Bruins won’t just be using Backes more on the power play, they’ll be using him more at ­5-on-5. He’ll go back into the lineup against Chicago on Tuesday and, depending on who the Bruins call up from Providence before their long road trip, he may be in the lineup more frequently. The idea of playing Backes in only one half of back-to-backs has worked so far but there’s no telling if Cassidy will have a reliable option that will allow him to sit back at Anaheim or Los Angeles this weekend.

Ryan Donato might be an option to re-join Boston or AHL All-Star Ryan Fitzgerald could get his first regular-season call-up. If the Bruins decide to just go for someone to plug into the bottom six, veteran Jordan Szwarz or Anton Blidh could be considered.

Wheeling and dealing

Sweeney was already searching for forward help. He conceded as much several times in the past couple weeks and reiterated that Tuesday.

He noted, though, that the notion that he needs a “third-line center” has been muted by the emergence of the Sean Kuraly-Noel Acciari-Chris Wagner line.

“So where we split the atom there, I’ve got to try to acquire a guy that’s going to impact our lineup and let Bruce figure out where he plays,” Sweeney said.

There are plenty of players with Boston and Providence that can handle a bottom-six role. The Pastrnak injury now makes it imperative Sweeney lands someone that can play in the top six. If he wasn’t desperate before the Pastrnak news, he kind of has to be now.

Without knowing what Pastrnak’s availability will be from March on, the Bruins can’t stand pat and think they’re going to get into the playoffs, let alone make a run. Prospects and picks he figured he could hang on to have to be on the table now. And even if he can’t land the biggest available fish – Columbus’ Artemi Panarin – he’s going to have to add at least one established NHL scorer to keep the Bruins afloat without Pastrnak.

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