Is it too early to dub Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak as the next Alexander Ovechkin?
Following his latest masterpiece, his first four-goal game of his career and his fifth career hat trick in a 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, numerous reporters hurled that very question at Pastrnak and to his teammates. The confident but always affable and humble Pastrnak deflected such comparisons and predictions away like he does with a Zdeno Chara or Torey Krug blast from the point on the net, but wasn’t afraid to acknowledge that he someday hopes to be mentioned with even close to the high reverence the Washington Capitals superstar receives on a daily basis.
“No, I wouldn’t call it rival him, but, I definitely want to get to that point as a player,” a humbled Pastrnak said when asked if he’s about to ‘rival’ Ovechkin’s status as the premier goal-scorer in the NHL. “I think I can. It just will take time. Like I said, I think I can do it. Like I said, I’m not gonna rival a guy like Ovie. He’s a special player and has been on top for a long time in the league and he’s one of a kind.”
Pastrnak connected on four of five shots Monday but as he pointed out to a playoff-size media scrum after the game, he may have volume in shots and have a high success rate some games, but in others, he could go 0-for-5. Ovechkin, on the other hand, may struggle to accumulate shots on a game-by-game basis, but even if he gets just one off on net, he lights the lamp.
“Some games he get one chance a game and it’s in the net, ya know,” Pastrnak said of Ovechkin, who has five four-goal games on his resume. “That’s I think the biggest thing, sometimes I get four chance and it’s not in the net. So that’s the one thing, he can have a bad game, but he get one chance and he get a goal.”
Pastrnak may not want to get distracted by the thought that he is on a path that could actually rival that of Ovechkin, the most prolific goal scorer of the cap era and some would argue ever, but fans, media and even his teammates can. The 23-year-old winger hit the 30-goal plateau for the third time last season with 38 lamplighters, and if not for a midseason off-ice thumb injury, he very well could’ve become just the sixth Bruins player to reach the 50-goal mark and first since current team President and hall of famer Cam Neely amazingly accomplished the feat in just 44 games in the 1993-94 season.
When Ovechkin was 23, he not only scored 50 goals for the second time in his first three NHL seasons but lit the lamp 65 times in the 2007-08 season and the first of what would be three straight (56, 50) seasons in which he scored 50 or more.
On Monday, Pastrnak, who now has six lamplighters in the first five games of the season, was asked if he might hit the 50-goal milestone should he stay healthy this season. Once again, he responded with a team-first answer.
“Just move forward,” he said. “I want to get to that point that I have a shot to score 50 goals. But it is not my focus. I am focusing to be the best player I can be for this team, but 50 goals is not my No. 1 focus.”
Pastrnak’s teammate and the winning goalie for the Bruins Monday, Jaroslav Halak, wasn’t afraid to praise Pastrnak and talk comparisons to his former teammate.
“He’s got a great shot, great one-timer and it flies off the stick,” said Halak who was teammates with Ovechkin down the stretch run of the 2013-14 regular season and playoffs. “I think they’re different players you know? Ovie and Pasta. Obviously they’re both great and they can shoot the puck well. I faced ‘Pasta’ a couple times playing against him. I’ve been on the team now for a year and I have faced him a lot in practice so I know that he has a great shot. But I still think ‘Ovie’, is. …that’s why he scores 30, 25, whatever it is every year, goals from there, that’s his spot out there. Good for us, ‘Pasta’ can shoot it from there as well.
If you look around the league, around the teams, you know, Steven Stamkos, he’s right there. Ovie’ is there. Pasta. …he’s a righty as well. So it’s kind of. …you know it’s funny, you look at all these three guys that are righties, and they shoot the puck as well as anybody. Like I said, [Pastrnak] is just fun to watch and I couldn’t be more happier for him scoring four goals and obviously a big part of this team.”
Pastrnak does his best to shrug off his personal accolades and the potential of even greater ones to come, saying ‘that’s what I’m paid for’, but at $6.6 million per for the next four seasons, the Bruins are likely going to get much more than what the Capitals are paying ($9.5 million) the 34-year-old this season and next. Pastrnak has a realistic chance of producing the way Ovechkin did at his age and for the next four seasons, for what can only be termed as a bargain in today’s NHL.