David Pastrnak has had an incredible start to the 2019-20 season for the Boston Bruins. The forward has 25 goals in 28 games giving him a chance to become the first NHL player since Brett Hull in the 1991-92 season to score 50 goals in his team's first 50 games. NHL.com goes behind the numbers to examine if he can do it.
Scoring 50 goals in the first 50 games of an NHL season has been done eight times by five players: Maurice Richard for the Montreal Canadiens (1944-45), Mike Bossy for the New York Islanders (1980-81), Wayne Gretzky (1981-82, 1983-84, 1984-85) for the Edmonton Oilers, Mario Lemieux (1988-89) for the Pittsburgh Penguins and Brett Hull (1990-91, 1991-92) for the St. Louis Blues.
Because the game has changed drastically over the years, it's difficult to find an exact comparable for Pastrnak's start, but Hull's most recent example with St. Louis may prove similar. For context, when Hull scored 50 in 50 in back-to-back seasons, the League average in goals per game per team was 3.46 and 3.48 respectively. Through 437 games this season, teams are averaging 3.03, the highest total since 2005-06 (3.08).
Hull scored his 50th goal of the season in St. Louis' 50th game, against the Los Angeles Kings on Jan. 28, 1992. Through 28 games that season, Hull had 24 goals, including seven on the power play. Pastrnak has 12 goals on the man-advantage, where the Bruins rank second in the NHL with a power-play percentage of 30.9 (the Edmonton Oilers are first at 31.0). When Hull scored his 50th goal, he had 15 power-play goals and the Blues had a power-play percentage of 19.8. Pastrnak is on pace to score 21 power-play goals through 50 games, which would be the most in that span since Michel Goulet of the Quebec Nordiques (1985-86) had 22 in his team's first 50 games; Bossy also had 22 power-play goals in his first 50 games with the Islanders in 1980-81.
It's not outlandish to suggest that the Bruins could continue to produce around 30 percent on the power play through their 50th game; the Tampa Bay Lightning had a power-play percentage of 29.8 through 50 games last season, and the Bruins were at 27.3 percent.
Not even a lower-body injury to center Patrice Bergeron has slowed Boston's power play. Bergeron, who is second on the Bruins with 23 power-play shots behind Pastrnak (31), has missed the past five games, but the Bruins are 3-for-10 on the power play during that span. Pastrnak has one of those goals.
Video: OTT@BOS: Pastrnak sets up Bergeron in front
Another factor that should be considered when assessing Pastrnak's chances of repeating Hull's success is shooting percentage. Pastrnak is shooting 22.5 percent, much higher than his NHL career average of 14.9 percent. Hull was shooting 13.7 percent during the same number of games played but had a much higher shot volume (175 as opposed to Pastrnak's 111). When Hull scored his 50th goal, he had a total of 284 shots on goal and a shooting percentage of 17.6. External factors that could keep Pastrnak's shooting percentage high are shot quality, odd-man rushes, high-danger chances and linemates.
Pastrnak skates on Boston's top line with left wing Brad Marchand, who is tied for third in the NHL with 44 points (18 goals, 26 assists) and Bergeron, who has 16 assists in 21 games. During the 1991-92 season, Hull skated with center Adam Oates, who was first in the NHL in assists (55) and sixth in points (65) through 50 games. It bodes well for Pastrnak that Marchand is in the top three in scoring, and the first line will receive a boost when Bergeron, who has averaged .93 points per game since 2015-16, returns. With a fully healthy team, Pastrnak has the caliber of linemates that can help aid him in scoring 50 in 50.
Hull had 10 multigoal games through his 50th game of the season in '91-92. Pastrnak has four, putting him on pace for seven multigoal games during the same span. For better context, Hull scored 26 goals total in multigoal games in the first 50 games; Pastrnak is at 11 goals through multigoal games, suggesting he could match Hull in this category with some additional hat tricks. Through 28 games, Pastrnak has the edge on Hull in power-play goals, has at least equal-caliber linemates, but has a higher shooting percentage and lower shot volume.
Video: BOS@MTL: Pastrnak posts sixth career hat trick
In order to achieve the 50 in 50 mark, Pastrnak's best chance is generating more shots to account for any decline in shooting percentage, especially in the absence of Bergeron. Regardless of whether he gets 50 goals in 50 games, it will likely be the closest any skater has gotten to the achievement since the early '90s.