By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
David Pastrnak is ahead of schedule. In all respects.
Not only is the 24-year-old Pastrnak back in action about two weeks earlier than initially expected when Pastrnak underwent hip surgery last September, but his skating legs are there, the production’s there, and even the hands and timing are surprising his head coach after a three-goal, four-point performance in Philly.
“It’s funny, I told [Pastrnak] my experience is when guys miss that much time your timing and your hands are a bit out of sync; hah, he showed me,” B’s head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the win. “Obviously he’s on a mission, and good for him, we need it. He’s a scorer and you need those guys to win hockey games for you.”
Like Cassidy said, Pastrnak’s scoring and that’s what scorers do. But this is ridiculous.
In three games since returning to the Boston lineup, Pastrnak has five goals, two assists (both primary helpers), 19 shots on goal, 37 shot attempts, and 13 individual scoring chances in 61:28 of total ice-time. Those 19 shots are the sixth-most on the Bruins — and it’s certainly worth mentioning that the five players directly above and below Pastrnak in this stat have all played at least six more games than Pastrnak to date — and his 37 attempts are the fourth-most among all B’s shooters, trailing only Brad Marchand, Craig Smith, and Patrice Bergeron.
Hat tricks since 2016-17:— Ty Anderson (@_TyAnderson) February 4, 2021
1. Alex Ovechkin (12)
2. David Pastrnak (9)
3. Patrik Laine (8)
4. Connor McDavid (7)
To make it even more preposterous, Pastrnak’s five goals currently stand as the 18th-most in the entire NHL. Reminder: This man has played three games this season. Just pure insanity.
But perfectly Pastrnak.
“I found out that the best hockey I play, I have to be confident on the ice,” Pastrnak said of his hot start. “I have to play my game no matter if it’s a bad night or good night. And I’ll just try being confident because that’s how I can help the team with offensive plays. And that’s where I’m at my best.
“So I try to be confident, no matter how the game going, and and that’s that’s that’s my main factor. Obviously, when you are young, young, young guy and you lose the confidence sometimes when you missed the play. But with the years coming, I learned to just keep playing and draw the last shift behind me and just focus on the next one.”
Pastrnak’s confidence and production has also turned the B’s first line back into an absolute buzzsaw.
In almost 35 minutes of five-on-five time together since Pastrnak’s return, the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio has posted a 71.6 percent Corse-For percentage, outshot opponents 30-10, and outscored them 4-2. (The Marchand-Bergeron duo was outscored 4-3 in over 73 minutes of five-on-five play during Pastrnak’s absence.)
“They are a forechecking, puck recovery, playing off the original shot, and put teams under duress [line],” said Cassidy. “They just read off each other very well. That’s just chemistry. It’s nice to watch when they’re on.
“The question always is, do you split them up to to help other guys? And listen, we’ve debated it back and forth, and I’m sure we will as this year goes on. But right now, let’s enjoy it.”
Some other thoughts and notes from yet another Bruins comeback win…
Flyers weren’t thrilled with Hayes penalty that led to game-tying goal
The door to Boston’s second straight comeback victory was truly opened when Flyers center Kevin Hayes was whistled for a hook against Brad Marchand with 2:01 remaining in the third period of action.
Kevin Hayes takes a bad, bad penalty with just over 2 minutes left. pic.twitter.com/MEzq4F1vIz— Ryan Gilbert (@RGilbertSOP) February 4, 2021
As you’d suspect, the Flyers weren’t particularly thrilled with said call.
“It looked like he put his arms around him,” Flyers coach Alain Vigneault offered. “I don’t think he touched them very much. He put his arm around him and gave the opportunity to the referee to be a part of the game.”
“Sometimes I thought they were just letting us play [and] other times it seemed a little ticky-tacky,” said James van Riemsdyk. “As you go throughout the game, you get a feel for what’s going to be called and what isn’t. I felt that was a little inconsistent tonight. Obviously, they have a hard job though. I think we got to adjust and adapt because we know how good of a power play those guys have. Unfortunately their power play came through for them tonight.”
Hayes’ penalty opened the door to what was a 6-on-4 advantage, and a wild Pastrnak bat into Carter Hart’s crease for the game-tying goal with 15 seconds remaining in regulation.
And though the Flyers can argue about the validity of the penalty against Hayes, and while they definitely have a point when it comes to what was called versus what wasn’t, the calls around the Hayes penalty didn’t help.
It started with Nicolas Aube-Kubel whistled for closing his hand on the puck (which led to Pastrnak’s second goal of the night) and continued with Scott Laughton called for a blatant interference on Sean Kuraly in the final moments of regulation, which paved the way for Patrice Bergeron’s overtime winner.
Easy calls every time, and the real reason why the Flyers were unable to grab the second point in this one.
Bruins-Flyers rivalry favoring B’s through three head-to-heads
The Flyers entered the 2021 season as one of the favorites in the East, and they still are. Boston just jumped them in the divisional standings with Wednesday’s victory.
But this is a matchup that’s really favored the Bruins through three head-to-heads, with the Bruins capturing wins in all three meetings and taking advantage of Philadelphia’s penalty kill (they’ve converted on seven of their 11 power-play opportunities against the Flyers) and jumping on nearly ever lapse in the defensive zone throughout that three-game set. A win on Friday and the Bruins have guaranteed themselves a .500 record against Philly in 2021. Not too shabby, especially if this division is as tight as we believe it’s going to be down the stretch.
(That said, things may flip when Sean Couturier returns to action.)
Blidh debuts, but Bruins’ bottom-six grouping remains revolving door
Energy winger Anton Blidh made his 2021 debut Wednesday and finished his 9:40 night with a hit, block, and shot on goal on Boston’s fourth line. It wasn’t the worst. But it was hardly inspiring if Blidh has any plans on dethroning one of the B’s regulars for a spot in the Boston lineup. Right now, it’s clear that the Bruins are simply doing what they have to stay above water down the bottom of their roster — they’re currently without Jake DeBrusk, Ondrej Kase, and Jack Studnicka, which has promoted just about everyone from lines three and four — but Wednesday did little to separate Blidh from a Par Lindholm or Karson Kuhlman. That’s the challenge in front of him.
We talked a lot about the Bruins before Wednesday’s game against the Flyers on the newest episode of the SideLines podcast. Have a listen below.
Ty Anderson is a writer and columnist for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Yell at him on Twitter: @_TyAnderson.