BOSTON — The Bruins witnessed a rare sight Wednesday night: David Pastrnak at the top of his game.
The 19-year-old winger, whose short time in the NHL has been marked by injuries, expected growing pains and flashes of brilliance, was a force in Boston’s 5-1 demolition of the Pittsburgh Penguins, scoring twice and tallying a season-high seven shots on goal in one of the Bruins’ most satisfying victories of the season.
The first of those two goals — the most he’d recorded in a game since Jan. 13, 2015 — came on Pastrnak’s first career penalty shot. His second, which came just over three minutes into the second period, proved to be the game-winner for Boston.
Add in the two assists he recorded in Monday’s loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Pastrnak is in the midst of his most productive stretch since late last season.
“He seemed liked he found his stride (Wednesday night),” Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid said after the game. “I mean he can create things, he’s got that speed and quick hands. He was pretty tenacious (Wednesday night), I thought, and even getting in on some battles. And he’s still a young guy, so if he can continue to improve in those areas, he is going to be pretty dangerous.”
That’s what the Bruins were banking on when they drafted Pastrnak 25th overall in 2014. A foot injury in late October followed by stints at the World Junior Championships and in the minors sidelined him for 28 consecutive games, and an upper body injury a week after his return to the lineup kept him out of an additional three contests.
For all intents and purposes, Pastrnak’s season began Jan. 19, and he’s only recently begun to find his mojo.
“He’s been good for a while,” said coach Claude Julien, who called out the young winger after a Dec. 21 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. “I don’t think it’s (just Wednesday night). I’ve liked his game now for probably the last three, four (games). Again, he’s come off a major injury and he’s had to catch up with the rest of the guys, and it takes time. At the beginning, he really looked like he was having a tough time, but right now, he’s certainly shown that he’s getting better and feeling more and more confident. To me, (on Wednesday) he was the guy for all three periods that I thought skated really well for us.”
The talent Julien has placed around Pastrnak sure hasn’t hurt. He’s played the last few games on a line with center David Krejci and left wing Loui Eriksson — two of Boston’s most talented and experienced forwards — and displayed an uptick in physicality to go along with his trademark speed and scoring touch.
Krejci, for one, has liked what he’s seen.
“Obviously, he wants to be a complete player,” Krejci said. “It’s never easy to come into the league as an 18-year-old, so he’s done such a big stride so far in those last two years. He is just getting better every day.”
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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