David Pastrnak has been a budding superstar for a few years now, but this campaign may be when the winger fully blooms.
The Bruins star tallied a hat trick in Boston’s convincing 5-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday at TD Garden, in the process claiming the NHL’s goal-scoring lead and later tightening his grip on it. Pastrnak’s hat trick-clinching tally was his 15th of the season, which gives him a three-goal cushion atop the leaderboard.
At this point, we’ve seem Pastrnak play at a high level in every situation. From statement games such as Saturday’s to playoff contests, he never struggles to make key contributions and provide a stability in pivotal moments. His hattie against the Leafs was the fourth of his career, all of which occurred during the 2018 calendar year, with one such performance also taking place this past postseason against Toronto.
It’s now getting to the point where Pastrnak is situating himself in the conversation of the NHL’s top wingers, if not top forwards altogether.
Sure, he mightily benefits from playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, but he’s proven to be far from just a freeloader on that line, instead serving as an integral part of its success.
Pastrnak is just 22 years old, and we may be watching what could end up being the beginning of the season he truly enters the strata of the league’s elite.
Here are some other notes from Saturday’s Bruins-Maple Leafs game:
— With Tuukka Rask on leave, Jaroslav Halak is in a position where he really can’t afford to fold, otherwise head coach Bruce Cassidy will have to turn to Dan Vladar.
Halak didn’t just keep Toronto at bay, he stunned them. The netminder turned away 40 shots, half of them in the first period. Having played in front of some atrocious defenses earlier in his career, Halak is no spring chicken when it comes to getting peppered. That proved to be an important skill in Saturday’s contest, as he was plenty composed when the Bruins had to enter bend-but-don’t-break mode.
Save for Thursday’s meltdown against the Vancouver Canucks, Halak has been stable the first month-plus of the season. He’ll need to keep that going over the coming games, and Saturday was a good tone-setter.
— Joakim Nordstrom has given some the second line a jolt.
The veteran forward was a surprising addition to the left wing alongside David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk, but he’s given the unit energy while in the role, and it finally showed up on the stat sheet late against the Leafs.
Just 26 seconds after Pastrnak’s final goal, Nordstrom put the game away for good with a missile of a wrister. Fittingly, it all started with a heads-up play in the defensive zone. Nordstrom cleared the zone by flipping the puck up and out, with Krejci giving it chase and gaining possession deep in the attacking end. Nordstrom had dashed behind Krejci in transition and received the pass from his teammate before burying the B’s fifth goal.
Nordstrom has proven to be a sneaky good signing so far. He’s been more than willing to do whatever is needed, playing on the second, third and fourth lines already this season while serving in all three forward positions, and he appropriately was rewarded in the box score.
— Cassidy shuffled his bottom-six forward group Saturday, and it paid off.
David Backes was shifted to the fourth line right wing in place of Noel Acciari, and Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson slotted into the third line center role between Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork. Though they didn’t provide any scoring, they sure did a fine job preventing it.
The third line has been a black hole for the Bruins often this season, but it finally showed some encouraging life.
Thumbnail photo via Kathryn Riley/USA TODAY Sports Images