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…