David Pastrnak is a shot of adrenaline in human form. David Pastrnak is a defibrillator on the heart of the Boston Bruins. David Pastrnak is an 18-year-old Czech Messiah.
They’re all applicable at this point, really, if you're into that hype thing. Pastrnak has played in eight games for the Bruins. The first few of them, earlier this season, saw him add significant jump to the lineup, if not points before he went off to the minors and then world juniors.
The last two have featured 2-goal games and spectacular tallies. He earned over 17 minutes of ice time against the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night and produced seven shots and a plus-4.
“He’s a good skater, he’s a skilled player (and) he’s got a good shot. Whenever he gets an opportunity to join the rush and attack, he attacks the net and challenges goalies that way. That one goal was a good example — coming in off the wing with speed and going around (the defenseman and goalie),” Tuukka Rask told the Boston Herald.
“We don’t necessarily have too many guys like that, so it’s really a good sign. He’s been red-hot. We’ve just got to find a way to keep that going for him.”
It’s been a slow build to this moment for Pastrnak. He appeared in five games earlier this season, skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand for a bit. The Bruins shipped him back down to the AHL for offensive refinement – specifically, according to the Boston Globe, working on his play in the “hard-hat” area of the ice between the dots – and he responded with nine points in six games.
He went to the World Junior Championship with the Czech team, where he had seven points in five games. The plan was always to bring him back to the Bruins, and he’s helped the B’s surge to four straight wins (three of them with him in the lineup) and a 6-1-3 run overall.
But the biggest factor in his return was his spot in the batting order: On countryman David Krejci’s wing, skating opposite Milan Lucic.
Spinal Tap had fewer drummers than those two Bruins had linemates this season, as Claude Julien desperately tried to replace Jarome Iginla’s contributions on that top line. Pastrnak basically pulled the sword from the stone upon his arrival, and looks like a natural fit for that line: Bringing speed where it was needed, bringing skill where it was necessary.
The team-high seven shots on net and breathtaking use of his speed and hands raised the energy level on the Bruins bench about three notches in the second period when Pastrnak engineered Boston’s comeback. It also couldn’t help but remind anybody of a certain Tyler Seguin exploding offensively against the same Lightning team during the Eastern Conference Finals during the B’s run to the Cup in 2011.
Seguin didn’t do much else in that postseason as a teenaged phenom, but the Bruins don’t advance past Tampa to get to the Stanley Cup Final if he doesn’t flash for four points in Game 2 at the Garden. That’s exactly the way the Bruins should be viewing this Pastrnak Comet that’s shooting through Boston at just the right time: even if there are peaks and valleys as the 18-year-old surpasses the most games played in his hockey career, an offensive explosion or two like Tuesday night’s two-goal beauty could be difference-maker between winning or losing a round or two in the playoffs.
If this reads like hyperbole, well, it is. And it’s part of a long-standing tradition in Boston, and in the NHL, of hyping young players to the moon when they make an immediate impact. The walls of the Garden still echo with 'Dougie Hamilton for Norris campaigns' after, like, his fifth game as a pro.
But there’s something different with Pastrnak, something intangible. In this Bruins’ season of dashed expectations and crippling injuries, he’s a ray of sunshine. In a season where the Bruins’ approach and window of opportunity were both healthily debated, he’s a harbinger of the next wave for Boston.
And like his Czech mate in San Jose, Tomas Hertl, he’s just so damn likeable.
“It’s easy to like him. He’s always got a smile on his face. He loves the game. It’s pretty obvious, and he comes to the rink every day happy to be doing what he’s doing,” said Claude Julien.
His nickname is Pasta, and true to form his future with the Bruins this season is a bit tangled.
Keep him through 10 games, and the Bruins burn a year of his contract this season, bringing him all that closer to unrestricted free agency down the line. GM Peter Chiarelli hasn’t tipped his hand, only to say that the contract isn’t the only consideration in making this call.
But c’mon, Pete: This is David Christ. This is Pastrnakamania. This is the dude we’re all going to fawn over on Twitter every time he scores a breathtaking goal until he goes scoreless for seven games and we move on to the next one.
And that's OK. This Pasta might not be totally ready, but we prefer it a little al dente. Keep him around. He seems to get it.
“I’m scoring goals [but] it doesn’t mean anything for the next game,” said Pastrnak via CSN. “Someone else can score. The important thing is that we won.”
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