BEDFORD, MA – David Pastrnak has two goals in five games during the Boston Bruins first round playoff series against the Florida Panthers. For many players that would be phenomenal production and for many, many others that would certainly be adequate to start a Stanley Cup playoff run.
But the 26-year-old Pastrnak is a Hart Trophy candidate that scored 61 goals and 113 points in 82 games amidst his best NHL season, and the game-breaking right winger consistently led the way for the Boston Bruins offensively during this record-breaking season. That has not been the case during the playoffs, however, as Florida has done a pretty good job of keeping Pastrnak in check with just two points in the five games and had gotten No. 88 to a point where he was passing up good shooting chances in Wednesday night’s 4-3 overtime loss to the Panthers in Game 5 at TD Garden.
There was one point late in the Game 5 loss where Pastrnak was leading a 2-on-1 odd-man rush into the Florida zone and he passed off on a chance to shoot in a play that never materialized at the Panthers net. There was a clearly audible “shoot!” coming from the crowd as the play unfolded.
That seemed to be on Pastrnak’s mind as the big on-ice adjustment he has to make headed into Friday night’s Game 6 where the B’s have another chance to close out the Panthers season at FLA Live Arena.
“Probably, I could shoot the puck a little bit more,” admitted Pastrnak, who had four shots on net and nearly twice as many that were blocked or missed the net in his nearly 24 minutes of ice time in Game 5. “I got a couple of shots blocked and then you try to look for another, better play to see if somebody is more open, so I’m definitely going with the shooting mindset moving forward.”
Clearly, there is a challenge to finding space to shoot and create when the ice gets a lot more hostile during the postseason, and that’s an adjustment for anybody. But a couple of weeks into the postseason Pastrnak should be operating at his highest level, which hasn’t been seen to date in this first round playoff series against the Panthers. The Bruins are doing their best to find the right formula for Pastrnak as well, mixing him in with the Perfection Line in Game 5 and trying him with Tyler Bertuzzi at times during the series.
Certainly, Pastrnak may be missing his main setup man with David Krejci injured and out of the lineup, but that shouldn’t be much of an excuse for a player of his caliber when it comes to putting the puck in the net.
“One side wants to see me score goals and the other side doesn’t, so I like it. For me it’s just to simplify and have the shooting mentality that I had all year long,” said Pastrnak, who was the only NHL player to top 400 shots on net this season with an NHL-leading 407 shots on net when the season concluded. “I’m getting the chances, I feel like…so it’s just a matter of time before they go in.”
🎥 David Pastrnak on the #NHLBruins generating more offense: "I think we obviously can get more. I think we expect to get more. But I think we still got it going as the game went on. You’re always looking to get more Grade A chances and get in front of the net a little more." pic.twitter.com/dQzZkNjTdJ
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 27, 2023
Really, Pastrnak has been rather ordinary in this series aside from a standout Game 3 where he scored and had seven shots on net while his fellow Hart Trophy candidate Matthew Tkachuk has been the driving force for the Florida Panthers. It’s time for Pastrnak to match that kind of dominance in this series, even If his head coach believes that No. 88 has been good enough to this point in the first round series.
“I really trust David’s decision-making, especially when he has the puck or offensively when he’s without it. I go to him a lot about what he sees in certain situatons, and I learn through him,” said Boston Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery. “I just really liked his habits without the puck [in Game 5] and I know that when his habits are really good, he’s going to get more opportunities. I thought he had more opportunities to do things [in Game 5] than he did in Game 4 in Florida.
“So if he continues on that trend, it’s just a matter of time. In the playoffs everything gets magnified, and he has two goals in five games. I’m not a mathematician, but what is that a 40-goal pace? So he’s a 20-goal pace behind, but it’s such a small sample size. That’s what expect and it’s what he’s shown for us.”
The solution seems simple and Pastrnak and his Boston Bruins coaches are saying the right things, but the proof will be on the ice if No. 88 finally looks like his dominant self during a big spot Friday night in Florida.