Is David Pastrnak Poised To Be Bruins’ First 50-Goal Scorer Since Cam Neely?

You might have missed it Tuesday night while watching the Boston Red Sox defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 2018 World Series, but David Pastrnak continued to dominate his opponents, scoring two goals for the Boston Bruins in their win over the Ottawa Senators.

The 22-year-old right winger now has 10 goals and 15 points in nine games through Oct. 23. His 10 goals are tied with Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews for the NHL lead. Pastrnak reached the 10-goal mark on Nov. 10 last season. He has three multi-goal games in the last seven matchups, including a hat trick against the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 13.

Pastrnak’s hot start to the campaign begs the question: Will he become the first Bruins player since Cam Neely during the 1993-94 season to reach the 50-goal mark?

He’s currently on pace for 91 goals, which obviously isn’t happening, but he does have a genuine chance to get to 50, and here’s why.

First, he’s shown a noticeable improvement in his skill set each season. His goal tally has increased in each of the last four seasons, and his improved physical strength and defensive instincts have created more opportunities for him and his linemates to create scoring chances.

The offensive tools always were there, but Pastrnak now is becoming a solid two-way player, and those players get the most ice time. Pastrnak’s two-way ability really started to get better during the 2016-17 season, when his average ice time per game rose almost four minutes from the previous campaign.

Pastrnak’s durability is another reason to be optimistic about his chances at 50. After battling some injuries early in his pro career, Pastrnak has been pretty healthy over the last two seasons. He played 75 games in 2016-17 and didn’t miss a single contest last season. He’s played in all 10 of Boston’s games this season.

But perhaps the biggest reason why Pasta could hit 50 goals is the quality of his linemates. Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand are two of the best players in the league, and their playmaking ability is underrated. Pastrnak’s second goal Tuesday night was the result of some slick moves and a great pass by Marchand.

The Bruins are a top-heavy team right now. This top line — probably the best trio in the league — has provided the bulk of the team’s scoring so far. Pastrnak leads the B’s with 10 goals and Bergeron is second with seven. No other Bruins player has more than two goals. All three of these players have 13 or more points, and no other Bruin has more than eight.

Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy needs to play his top line as much as possible for Boston to win, at least until the team’s depth improves, and this should open up more chances for Pastrnak to score goals.

Pastrnak has back-to-back 30-goal season, including a career-high 35 last year. He’ll likely shatter that personal best this season, and unless injuries come into play, the young superstar should get very close to or go over the 50-goal mark. Pastrnak and Matthews could be beginning a season-long duel for the Rocket Richard Trophy, and that would be amazing for hockey fans.

Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports Images

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