RALEIGH, NC - MARCH 13: Boston Bruins right wing David Pastrnak (88) controls the puck during an NHL hockey game between the Boston Bruins and the Carolina Hurricanes on March 13, 2018, at PNC Arena in Raleigh, NC. (Photo by William Howard/Inside Hockey)
It is tough to nitpick a team one day removed from a victory. So what does one do in that case? Nitpick individual players.
This past Thursday night, David Pastrnak recorded a goal and an assist in Boston’s 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, knotting up the second-round playoff series at two games each. In all honesty, that had to have been the quietest two-point game in recent memory. With the way that the 22-year-old winger has been ridiculed all postseason long for his underachieving, the thought has been floated out there that he should be scratched.
Bruins’ head coach Bruce Cassidy needs to do something, and sitting Pastrnak for a game or two might be the best thing for everyone.
Yes, it is a possibility that the injured finger is starting to bother him again. At the same time, that goal he scored on the power play in Game 4 certainly did not seem to have any effect on someone with an injured finger. That was a true goal scorer’s tally; a hard slap shot from the point. The Czech Republic native has been able to rack up several shots during the two games in Columbus. Although most of them never really seemed to challenge Blue Jackets’ netminder Sergei Brobrovsky, Pastrnak is getting some chances.
The fact that Pastrnak is second on the team in scoring this postseason—four goals and five assists for nine points—is astounding. The eye test alone should tell any fan watching the games that something is just not right with the first-time All Star.
The issue here appears to stem from a lack of physicality or the mental aspect of his game. Again, going back to Game 4 this past Thursday night, there was an instance where he got green lighted on a massive hit from Adam Clendening in open ice. Pastrnak appeared to see the hit coming right at him for several strides, but he still skated right into the stiff shoulder of the opposing player. There was another moment in the game where Pastrnak was skating up ice with the puck and appeared to leave the puck behind. Yet, he continued up ice in lackadaisical fashion thinking he still had possession but failed to realize he turned the puck over.
Yikes. That is not good.
Cassidy has tried moving Pastrnak all throughout the lineup in order to get him going. He even saw some time down on the third line with Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle, arguably two of the best players in this playoff series thus far. Pastrnak was eventually reunited with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, which is what some folks in the media have been advocating for. The mindset there is that if you want to get a player going and get some confidence back, you put him with the two best forwards on the roster.
There is an old expression that goes something like this: “Do what brought you to the dance.” Well, there comes a point where that dance is over and a much more crucial one is taking place.
Just because a particular forward line or game plan tactic works in the regular season, that does not necessarily mean it will translate into the playoffs. The NHL postseason is a completely different animal and the style of play is ramped up beyond belief. Adjustments need to be made on a regular basis.
If Pastrnak sits for a game or two, the outrage will start and the arguments against the move will be prominent. The biggest argument in reaction to that decision will be who would go into the lineup in place of someone who scored 38 regular-season goals?
Let’s look at it like this instead: Would you rather have a healthy Chris Wagner or Karson Kuhlman contributing what they would normally contribute to this team, or someone who is only giving half of what he normally would due to undisclosed reasons?
The answer should be a no brainer.
It is not too late at all. Sit Pastrnak and let him gather himself. The time off will be beneficial in so many ways for the player and for the team as a whole. If not, then it could very well be too late and his poor play will be the detriment of the Bruins.