It hasn’t been a red-hot start for Boston Bruins right winger David Pastrnak and perhaps that’s totally understandable.
The 25-year-old game-breaker is coming off a healthy offseason physically, but also an unspeakably difficult summer off the ice as he and girlfriend Rebecca suffered the worst kind of tragedy with the death of their newborn son Viggo just six days after he was born. Pastrnak understandably stepped away from his usual offseason training regimen this summer to process the worst thing a couple can possibly go through and took time to heal both mentally and spiritually.
All of that may be some of the reason behind what we’ve seen on the ice from Pastrnak with a reluctance to shoot the puck, and a pair of glaring odd-man rush chances that turned into nothing when No. 88 unsuccessfully tried to make a play. It just looks like something is a little “off” with Pastrnak when the puck is on his stick.
But he’s still got a pair of goals and 31 shots on net in seven games even if his puck-handling control, his playmaking instinct and his willingness to shoot have all felt less-than-the-norm in the first few weeks.
“He’s playing a little bit of catch-up. It seems like he’s looking to make plays more than shoot right now. He’s a creative player and he wants to make some plays, and then shoot it when the opportunity is right. And I think he’s been off net with some bouncing pucks a little bit early on,” said Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “The ice [at TD Garden], because of the weather, hasn’t been as crisp as it’s going to be. That could have something to do with it. But he’ll get better. He cares and he wants to get better, and he’s in good spirits. It’s just getting it to translate on the ice. To me it’s just a shot versus pass mentality and when he gets that right. Sometimes players go through that stretch.”
It certainly doesn’t seem like something that Pastrnak is overly concerned about, even if Cassidy saw enough to make him switch out Pastrnak for Craig Smith on the right side of Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand’s line last weekend against the Panthers. Pastrnak was right back in his usual Perfection Line spot at Sunday’s Bruins practice and is intent on simplifying things and looking to shoot the puck with more frequency.
“I’ve had some slumps in my years, so I’m pretty sure I’m experienced enough to know how to handle it these days. I know it’s going to come. I’m just focused on having fun and it’s good timing with these couple of days [of practice],” said Pastrnak. “It’s a long season. I’m just focusing on getting better every day. It’s not going to go your way for a full 82-games, so once it doesn’t go your way you need to focus more on the details. You kind of sit back on your ass or whatever, start from the beginning and play simple to get yourself back into a place where you feel comfortable. Now we have a few days of practicing, so you get ready for the next game.
“Even though I’m a shooter, I always look pass-first. I definitely want to get it out of my game, or at least even it up. And make the right decisions. Not always pass-first or the shot-first, and that’s part of when things aren’t going your way then you’re passing instead of shooting, or the opposite. I have to get a little back to shooting more and getting the opportunities and thinking shot-first when things are going a little slower than usual.”
Certainly, the slow start to the Boston Bruins power play is very much linked to Pastrnak’s game not being at it’s zenith. No. 88 is the linchpin of the top B’s power play unit with his lethal one-timer from the face-off circle that frees up space for everybody else in the formation, and that hasn’t been featured much in the first seven games of the season.
But if Pastrnak isn’t worried then perhaps nobody else should be, as well. A slow start to this season may have been easy to see coming for Pastrnak, but that just means the goals are going to start piling up once his game is in light-lamping midseason form.