Skip to main content
column

Pastrnak trying to 'get better' for Bruins in playoffs

Forward struggling to find footing heading into Game 5 against Blue Jackets

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

COLUMBUS -- The statistics could be considered a bit misleading. Through the first four games of the best-of-7 Eastern Conference Second Round, Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak has two goals. He has four through the first 11 games of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Not bad, right?

But Pastrnak has struggled to find his footing -- and especially his hands -- in the first two rounds of the playoffs, something that has hamstrung the Bruins in their quest to reach their preferred destination: the Stanley Cup Final. The one goal Pastrnak had scored in this second round prior to the Bruins' 4-1 win in Game 4 against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday came on a deflection off his skate, and the two goals from the first round came in the same game.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Blue Jackets series coverage]

 

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy has been forced to move the 22-year-old up and down the lineup, from the first line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, to the second line with Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci, to the third with Marcus Johansson and Charlie Coyle, from the top power-play unit to the second. Nothing has quite clicked.

Pastrnak did score the Bruins' first goal at Nationwide Arena on Thursday, at 3:33 of the first period, after sustaining a massive hit from Blue Jackets defenseman Adam Clendening 28 seconds earlier. Bergeron scored twice to give the Bruins the series-tying victory heading into Game 5 at TD Garden on Saturday (7:15 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

Video: BOS@CBJ, Gm4: Pastrnak fires one-timer past Bobrovsky

"Hopefully he's feeling better about his game," Cassidy said about Pastrnak, who along with Marchand and Bergeron had combined for one goal (from Pastrnak) through the first three games of the series. "Those guys responded well, had a good game. They hadn't been producing. I think they all had some level of chances to score goals tonight. They get a couple early. Always makes you feel good to get those out of the way, give your team a lead."

But that doesn't mean that Pastrnak is out of the woods.

"Listen, he's a proud guy," Cassidy said. "He's a young guy that's still going through some of that maturity process and learning how to compete this time of year. He's got good players around him to help him through it. He's got the trust of his coaching staff, so we're going to allow him to play through it. 

"He's a great kid if you know him at all. He cares a lot. He's matured over the years, but he's still a young guy learning what it takes and we're here to help him with that. As long as he keeps working hard, he's going to get every opportunity to get out there. We may limit certain situations because we're trying to win, but at the end of the day, we've got a lot of faith in David and hopefully it just keeps getting better for him."

And though it didn't change everything, didn't eliminate the mistakes or the hesitation to shoot or the turnovers, the goal mattered. He scored on a beauty of a shot, a one-timer from the left circle off a feed from Charlie McAvoy, something that could continue to push his confidence in the right direction. 

"We won, right?" Pastrnak said after the game. "That's the biggest thing for me. How I felt? I don't know. I'm going to get up tomorrow, learn from the mistakes, and try to get better."

In addition to his three shots on goal, Pastrnak had two blocked and one miss. But he also had two giveaways, one of which, at 12:15 of the second period on the power play, led directly to a Boone Jenner shorthanded chance for Columbus.

Video: Marchand, Bergeron, Pastrnak shine in Game 4 win

One of the ways in which the Bruins tried to make it work with a slumping Pastrnak was to move him off their top power-play unit, which had been 1-for-9 in the first three games against the Blue Jackets. He was replaced by Krejci, who usually plays on the second unit. Whether or not it was related to the switch, the Bruins went 2-for-6 on the power play in Game 4, each goal coming from Bergeron, with Pastrnak getting an assist on the second one.

It was a setup the Bruins had used this season when Pastrnak was out in February after hand surgery, so it wasn't foreign to them. And it allowed for less pressure on the forward, while potentially helping the Bruins out of their doldrums on the man-advantage.
 
"Power play didn't take a hit," Cassidy said. "[Krejci's] good over there. More of a passer than a shooter and right now we weren't getting that many shots from the elbow, so [Krejci] is good at chucking it into the bumper there to [Bergeron], maybe some tips, so we went that route. Did it make a difference? I don't know."

But what Cassidy was clear about was that they still need Pastrnak, that they're going to keep working to get him going, that he's an integral part of the Bruins and what has gotten them to this point. He was their top goal-scorer in the regular season, with 38, 17 of those coming on the power play to lead Boston. 

"We're not going to bury him," Cassidy said. "He's always going to be on the power play. If he stops working and doing some other things, then we'll look at that. But right now I don't see that. I wish he was harder on the puck in front of our bench in the second period. 

"That was the only thing I said to him: If you're going to keep it in, you've got four forwards out there. You've got to be committed to keep it in and dig in and take a hit or whatever you have to do there. That was the only dissatisfaction I had with him."

But, Cassidy said, "He muffed some plays. There might be a comfort level there. I don't know what's going on there. It's not like him. I think he'll play out of that. But he does have to compete hard on those pucks and that was the message to him and my only criticism."

Even with this version of Pastrnak, the Bruins are two wins from the Eastern Conference Final. They've gotten secondary scoring in the playoffs from players like Sean Kuraly, DeBrusk and Joakim Nordstrom (two goals each) and especially Coyle (five goals). They've seen increasing excellence from Bergeron (five goals), even as the production has slowed from Marchand (one assist against Columbus) and the issues have been there for Pastrnak. 

They'd like to see him turn it around. But, for now, the Bruins are surviving. 

"We've gotten a lot of heat, but if you break down the chances we've had game to game, we're getting five, six really good opportunities every game," Marchand said. "So it's a matter of time before those guys score goals. You give them that many opportunities every game, they're going to score. It's just the way it is. They're too good."

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.