Boston Bruins

David Pastrnak #88 of the Boston Bruins gets set during a face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on March 05, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Rick Osentoski/Getty Images)

If you’re ranking the Bruins in terms of their importance to a deep playoff run, just where does winger David Pastrnak rank?

He’s probably not ahead of guys like Jeremy Swayman and Charlie McAvoy, but he may very well be right behind Patrice Bergeron. Especially when you consider his David Krejci-esque role as the new driving force of the Bruins’ second line. Let’s just go simple and say that he’s no lower than No. 5 on your hypothetical list.

So, to see your No. 5 grabbing at his side for the third time in eight games, and this time failing to return to action? And with the playoffs officially less than a month away? “That’s a little unsettling, to say the least,” the local hockey writer says instead of posting 88 straight grimacing emojis.

And it’s enough to make you wonder if it’s time for the Bruins to maybe go full ‘load management’ mode with Pastrnak.

Now, given Pastrnak’s nature as well as his approach throughout this battle with what we all believe is a core injury (Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy admitted last week that Pastrnak is trying to work through some discomfort), it shouldn’t and wouldn’t surprise anybody to see No. 88 on the ice for Tuesday’s game in Detroit. He’s that kind of player, and he’s managed to stay productive throughout the injury, so if he tells you he’s fine, it stands to reason that he is indeed fine.

But if ‘fine’ becomes a sliding scale, that’s no good for the B’s given their spring and summer goals.

The Bruins have captured wins in 17 of their last 21 games. 35 of a possible 42 points over that stretch, in fact. This has been their most complete stretch as a team. Monday’s win, along with Tampa’s loss to the Leafs, moved the Bruins into a tie with the Bolts for third in the Atlantic. The Bruins also hold the tiebreaker over the defending Cup champs. Pastrnak has an awful lot to do with that sprint up the standings, of course, with a team-leading 14 goals and 26 points over that run.

But if the team game is good enough — and this is something that Cassidy noted after Monday’s win, saying the Bruins are getting contributions from all 18 skaters — isn’t this the ‘best’ (relatively speaking) time to give Pastrnak a week or two to get this clearly nagging injury under control and closer to 100 percent?

If you’re worried about seeding, the spoiler is that the Bruins are in the NHL version of the division of death, and that a daunting round-one opponent awaits them no matter their finish. Second or third, or even in the wild card, hell awaits. Their best chance at advancing out of first round depends on health infinitely more than it does their opponent.

And even if the injury is too far along and will ultimately require offseason surgery, or especially if that’s inching closer and closer to a reality, it almost seems mandatory that the Bruins find some in-season rest moments for Pastrnak.

Back in 2019, the re-injuring of a thumb injury originally suffered in February limited Pastrnak from the second round on, and his scoring struggles became a major focal point when the Bruins failed to win the Stanley Cup. And in 2020, Pastrnak’s bubble run was hampered by an injury that ultimately required offseason surgery. There’s enough data there to say that keeping Pastrnak as close to 100 percent as possible for Game 1 trumps any regular season achievements.

Especially if they continue to come with the all-world scorer grabbing at his side and an entire fanbase grimacing.

Here are some other thoughts and notes from a 3-2 win in Columbus

  • Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) deflects the puck towards the Vegas Golden Knights zone during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

    Mar 3, 2022; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Boston Bruins left wing Brad Marchand (63) deflects the puck towards the Vegas Golden Knights zone during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. (Stephen R. Sylvanie/USA TODAY Sports)

    Do we have some more terrible Marchand discourse on the way?

    If you had an issue with Brad Marchand’s hit on Andrew Peeke, I truly do not know what to tell you.

    To be absolutely clear, I hate slow-motion GIFs being used as judgements for hits. (I still love Conor Ryan and you should subscribe to the BSJ for his Bruins coverage, but this is just my personal stance.) Slow-mo GIF replays of hits are borderline disinformation, really. While the slowed-down speed is designed to give the viewer the best angle possible, people tend to use it to try to determine intent on a play that went down at approximately 25 miles per hour. It’s just not the best way to view it.

    But slow it down, speed it up, and there’s nothing wrong with what Marchand did on this hit. Not a thing. There’s a loose puck and Peeke is making the decision to activate deeper into the offensive zone to make a potential scoring play on the puck. Every single defenseman who has ever made this decision at any level of hockey should be aware of the risk that comes with that. This is one area of the rink where you absolutely should expect a hit to come your way. There’s a price that’s often paid with those plays, even if it’s timed perfectly. Peeke paid the price to make a play, and it didn’t work out for him, as he took a heavy hit and helped spark Jake DeBrusk the other way for a breakaway goal as he struggled to get back to his feet.

    Scream suspension as loud as you’d like, and there’s still nothing there.

    I think our pal Mike From Woburn has summed it up best when referring to these people who do nothing but scream for suspensions as “Player Safety Fetishists.” It’s probably the closest thing hockey has to the proverbial internet mob. (Wait, it definitely is.) They don’t actually care about improving the game or the concept of player safety as a whole, they just have a fetish for playing judge, jury, and executioner. It seems a bit like rooting for the Death Star sometimes. Big time ‘suspend me harder, Parros!’ vibes from those weirdos.

    And with Marchand, I’m sure the hyperbole is on another level.

  • Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) plays the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Boston Bruins goaltender Linus Ullmark (35) plays the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first period at Nationwide Arena. (Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports)

    Linus Ullmark is heating up for the Bruins

    I think the bellyaching about Linus Ullmark has always been a tad over the top this season. I do believe he’s very much what a $5 million NHL goaltender is in 2022. If he were any better or more consistent, he would cost more than $5 million. And I think he’s already proved worth the money for 2021-22 with his two-month or so run that helped keep the B’s afloat while Swayman found his game. We can argue over that if we want, but I have an extremely limited interest in that debate.

    Because at the end of the day, the most important thing to note when it comes to Ullmark is that the Bruins have benefitted from the fact that they’ve yet to experience a stretch where both goalies were in the tank at the same time.

    With Swayman going through a slight (stressing the slight, so don’t freak out) dip in terms of his raw numbers and eye-test figures, which was bound to happen given how strong he performed upon his return to the NHL), Ullmark has provided the Bruins with some solid play. With a 5-0-0 record and .931 save percentage in six appearances since Mar. 15, Ullmark’s .931 save percentage actually ranks fourth-best among all NHL goaltenders over that span, and his 1.69 goals against average over that spell is second to only the Avalanche’s Darcy Kuemper (1.67) among goaltenders with at least five appearances.

    On the year, Ullmark is up to 22 wins in 33 decisions, and has certainly helped put the Bruins in this position as a viable threat with two fresh-but-not-exhausted goalies approaching a cramped schedule to close out the season and with seeding on the line.

  • Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) makes a save in net against Boston Bruins center Curtis Lazar (20) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

    Apr 4, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Elvis Merzlikins (90) makes a save in net against Boston Bruins center Curtis Lazar (20) in the third period at Nationwide Arena. (Aaron Doster/USA TODAY Sports)

    The Junk Drawer

    • More home-and-homes, please. Because these teams hate each other by the second game. I mean, honestly, anything to spice up a regular season game is A-OK in my book. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Gimme more games against division and conference foes. I’d happily sacrifice seeing each non-conference at both home and road to make this happen. I absolutely know that’s easy for me, a Bruins person living in Massachusetts, to say, and I apologize to my displaced New England friends. I just miss divisions and conferences actually meaning something.
    • Defenseman Josh Brown drew back into action for the Bruins on Monday night. Brown suffered an upper-body injury last Thursday against the Devils and missed last Saturday’s meeting with the Jackets at TD Garden. The 6-foot-5 Brown finished Monday’s game with two hits and two blocked shots in 14:59 of time on ice.
    • One thing I don’t understand about moving: Where did all these shirts come from? I wear the same 15 shirts in an endless rotation. How did I come into possession of so many shirts? Someone take these shirts. (No, not the Jaromir Jagr one. I’m keeping that one.)
    • I’m curious how Taylor Hall would perform in a fastest skater competition.
    • Random Blue Jacket: Pascal Leclaire. Remember how Brady Anderson had that one year where he ate all his vegetables and hit like 50 home runs out of nowhere? Leclaire was basically that but in net. In 2007-08, Leclaire won 24 games and posted nine shutouts in 54 games for Columbus. He would go on to win just 20 games and record a staggering zero shutouts over the three seasons that followed before he was out of the league. Injuries proved to be a major obstacle.
    • This is actually just the second time that the Bruins have swept the season series with the Blue Jackets since they moved to the Eastern Conference in 2013. The first and only other time came back in 2013-14.