BOSTON — David Pastrnak has become one of the best young players in the NHL, and the Boston Bruins right winger had his breakout Stanley Cup playoff performance in Thursday night’s Game 1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Pastrnak scored a goal and added two assists, which helped drive a dominant offensive performance for the Bruins en route to a 5-1 victory at TD Garden to open their first-round playoff series.
The young forward took a positive step forward this season with career highs in goals (35), assists (45) and points (80). After a good showing (four points in six games) in last season’s playoff run — his first taste of postseason action — Pastrnak looks poised for another stage in his development: becoming a proven playoff performer.
Pastrnak’s first point Thursday came in the opening period with the B’s on a power play. He took the puck deep into his own zone to regroup, then passed the puck to Torey Krug to begin the zone entry. Krug eventually found Brad Marchand, who scored the game’s first goal.
The 21-year-old’s next point was a goal in the second period, a crushing a blow to the Leafs because it came with just 38 seconds left in the frame and put Boston up 3-1. Pastrnak found an open space, made himself available for a pass from Marchand and unleashed a snipe of a wrist shot past Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen.
“I tried a one-timer on the short side, but as soon as I had to stop the puck I didn’t see anything on the short side,” Pastrnak said, describing the buildup to his goal. “The D kind of stepped up on me, so I just tried to shoot far side and it ended up in the net.”
Pastrnak tallied his third point with an assist on Sean Kuraly’s third-period goal, which put the B’s up 4-1 and ended any chance of a Leafs comeback.
Young players usually go one of two ways in the playoffs. They either crumble under the heightened pressure or they rise to the occasion and own the moment. Pastrnak certainly was a case of the latter.
“That was huge. We talked about keeping things simple, especially early on in the playoffs. He was a perfect example (Thursday night),” Bergeron said of Pastrnak. “He’s got the skills to make plays and moves. He stuck with it, put the puck deep and we got some good zone time because of that.”
The Leafs scored the third-most goals in the league this season and ranked second in power-play percentage. It’s unlikely their offense will be quiet the whole series, and that will force the B’s to be sharp in the attacking zone and capitalize on their scoring chances.
Pastrnak’s confidence and his line’s stellar play in Game 1 suggests the Bruins will be able to keep up with the Leafs if the series becomes a high-scoring affair.
“We tried to simplify some more and start from the beginning. The last couple of games weren’t our best as a line,” Pastrnak said. “We tried to simplify it and I think that we did a good job. Good to jump back in for us.”
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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