BOSTON — This really is what David Pastrnak is made of.
For many young stars, the big stage that comes with the playoffs can result in them going into hiding, but that has proven not to be the case for the Boston Bruins’ top-line winger. Quite the opposite, in fact.
The 21-year-old continued stuffing his postseason résumé Saturday, this time with a six-point hat trick performance in Game 2 of the B’s first-round Stanley Cup playoff series with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
No one could find a way to stop him, whether he had the puck or not, and the Bruins’ 7-3 trouncing of the visiting Leafs is many thanks to Pastrnak’s composure. He is slashing a wild 4-5-9through the first two, and now is 6-7-13 in eight career postseason games.
And what he did Saturday night was something that has not been done in quite some time.
He was 2-2-4 last postseason in the Bruins’ six games against the Ottawa Senators, and now it’s clear that his game is at an even higher level.
So what’s the difference? Head coach Bruce Cassidy has quite a list.
“More comfortable in NHL playoff hockey, for one,” Cassidy said. I think last year was his first go around. Ottawa plays a stingy game, as we know, so it’s harder for those skill guys to find their ice and find creases and time and space. I think he was aware going in that it’s not easy, so I’m going to have to make sure I take advantage of my opportunities when I do find the ice. Breakthrough night? It’s a good term. You could look back and say it is. I mean, six points in a Stanley Cup Playoff game with a hat trick, that’s special. Maybe it is, when you look back, but time will tell. Certainly, I think he’s more mature because of his previous experience last year.
“He’s stronger in general. We’ve talked about the difference in his game this year on pucks. He can escape some hits, he can absorb 20 percent of a hit, stay on his feet and keep his momentum, 30 percent, 40 percent, whereas, in the past, some of that knocked him off stride. Some of it’s maturity physically, some of it’s maturity mentally knowing what to expect in the playoffs.”
Playing in all 82 games this season, Pastrnak displayed himself as one of the league’s brightest young scorers. Cassidy’s risk earlier in the season to move Pastrnak from the second line — where he comfortably played on David Krejci’s wing — to the top line has paid dividends, as he slashed 35-45-80 during the regular season.
And now that he’s made his mark in the regular season, he feels the need to step up and be an even bigger contributor in the postseason.
“Well a lot, you know?” Pastrnak said when asked about his motivation to be an even bigger difference-maker. “Especially after last year, I felt a little bit of pressure to be honest but I liked it. I played with great players in a great team and we’re playing well now. It’s very easy for me to follow up the team. I think our leaders do a great job with us young guys. You guys know we have a lot of them. So, they prepare us well so do the coaches and I think that’s huge. We have a lot of guys who want it and they know what it takes.”
Pastrnak may still be in that batch of “young guys,” but early this postseason, he sure hasn’t shown it.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images
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