By Kevin Flanagan
BSD Bruins Senior Staff Writer
Through eight playoff games, one word sums up David Pastrnak’s performance thus far this postseason – underwhelming.
And that is being kind.
The Bruins leading scorer with 38 goals in 66 games in the regular season – and averaged 1.22 points per game, as well – has been shut down in the NHL’s second season, potting his only two goals in the 6-4 Game 4 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round.
For a majority of the time so far this spring, Pastrnak has been a nonfactor at best, or a liability at worst, during the time of the season when production from a team’s top players is a necessity if they harbor any real hopes of hoisting the Stanley Cup come June.
B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy is saying all of the right things when it comes to his talented winger, but kind words only get you so far in the win or go home reality that is the NHL playoffs.
“We’re not that down on Pasta. Obviously, with the goals, he’s got the two-goal total from the one game, and some of that is the way things go sometimes or the way teams are checking him. Eventually, I believe he’ll score,” said the man they call Butch on Friday. “That’s where he’s made some of his best contributions, so we’ll see where he ends up [in Game 2] and we’ll go from there.”
For his part, Pastrnak is claiming to be healthy – although it is not a stretch to think that his surgically repaired left thumb that was the result of a suspect fall after a Sunday night out with teammates in Boston back in February might be hindering him – and is chalking up his less than stellar play to the nature of playoff hockey.
“It’s a tough league. You can’t score every time. You’ve just got to find another way to help the team,” said the 22-year-old. “Maybe I would like myself to shoot a little bit more. I’m passing on some shots. But that’s normal sometimes. Sometimes I think the pass is better and I just need to get back to shooting it more.
“I’m just preparing the same way for every game like I did during the regular season. We’re winning and that’s the most important thing. I’m just trying to help the team any way that I can.”
While preparation might not be his problem, production sure has been. Cassidy thinks that his superstar in the making isn’t far from being the player he was this winter when he emerged as one of the most feared snipers in the league.
“I find that he’s a little more hesitant than he usually is from just ripping it when he’s on the elbow on the power play. I think they’re getting in his shooting lane and there are some opportunities to go backdoor to [Marcus] Johansson or Jake [DeBrusk], or [Brad] Marchand. Last night, we just missed one where he made a hell of a play to Marchie and he just went wide. It might be about what’s available and the shooting volume being down. So, we’re going to keep encouraging him to pound the puck on the net because there aren’t a lot of bad things that happen when you shoot the puck on the net.”
Whatever the reason for his dip in play during the playoffs, one thing is for certain. If the Bruins are going to take advantage of their status as favorites to win it all this spring, they will need more from the guy that they relied on heavily to produce points this past season.
In other words, if the guy they call “Pasta” continues to look like a wet noodle going forward against the Blue Jackets in round two, the Bruins might just get their gooses cooked by Columbus in what looks to be a long and hard-fought series.