David Pastrnak has emerged as one of the best offensive threats in the entire NHL. The dynamic winger notched his second hat trick of the season on Tuesday night in the Bruins 8-1 rout of the rival Montreal Canadiens. Pastrnak is now the league’s leading goal scorer with 23 lamplighters and holds a five-goal cushion on Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl. Maybe more importantly for the Bruins is that Pastrnak is emerging as a more complete player than in years prior. Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy expanded on that in the Bruins locker room on Tuesday night.
“He’s just showing up to play every night. He shoots when he’s supposed too. He’s still making plays, he’s not cheating,” Cassidy told the team’s official website. “He’s not scoring goals just by avoiding defensive responsibilities. I think he’s playing the right way while he’s doing it.”
Pastrnak has dealt with criticism from fans and media alike over the years for his lack of attention in the defensive zone. Earlier this season, when the Bruins lost a 4-1 lead to the Florida Panthers, Pastrnak took the brunt of blame from media and fans for his defensive performance in the third period.
In reality, though, his game is more complete than it has ever been. His Corsi For of 54.3% is well above the team average. His CF%rel of +5.6% proves just that. He’s got a positive Fenwick For (54.1%) that shines compared to his teammates (+4.9%). His possession numbers shine like a diamond and are extreme quality when compared to his other teammates.
He took his great skill and goal scoring ability and turned it into an elite package. Pastrnak currently has the most goals through the first 24 games of a season since Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux in 1992-93.
“He’s learned to get inside a little better than in the past,” Cassidy explained. “That’s probably due to his physical maturity. He’s been through a couple playoff rounds, he knows how important that is.” Cassidy also alluded to a shot that is unmatched by most in the league. “His one-timer has been rock solid from day one. So the powerplay is a threat every time he goes over the boards. Like we just talked about, the other goals, he was trying to get inside, attack the net.”
Pastrnak began his career in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, which is where Cassidy started his tenure in the organization. The Bruins bench boss remembers where Pastrnak was then and where he is now.
“I had him in Providence,” Cassidy recalled. “He was always winning pucks. But now he is able to stay on his feet longer and absorbs hits and I think that’s why he’s had more success this year.”
What Pastrnak said after Cassidy met the media postgame in the bowels of the Bell Centre had to be music to the coach’s ears and further proof of his prediction with the budding superstar winger ring even more true. When asked about his big night, Pastrnak had no interest in talking stats, instead focusing on how to improve and why the Bruins are tied with the Capitals and arguably – between them and the Caps – are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference right now.
“It’s good. A lot of guys get on the scoresheet,” he said. “Two points is two points no matter how you get there. If you win 1-0 or 8-1 it doesn’t matter for tomorrow. … To be honest I felt absolutely, like (expletive) the first couple shifts, I felt really bad. … That’s hockey.”
Pastrnak has gone from underrated prospect to elite NHL goal scorer. He’s continued to blossom and appears to only be getting better as he learns the lessons of the NHL and becomes the most complete player he can be.