Goal-scoring is such a precious commodity in today’s NHL that if you have a talented sniper, you have to do everything you can to cultivate him and make sure he can reach his full potential. Goaltenders are mostly huge in terms of size and the quality of their equipment has never been better, two of the main reasons why it’s become so hard to simply put the puck in the net. The Bruins (9-6-0) have a sordid recent history of trading away some of the best goal-scorers (hi Tyler Seguin and Phil Kessel) in the league but the good news for them is that it looks like right wing David Pastrnak is a budding star in his own way. The 20-year-old Czech and first-round pick from 2014 (25th overall) is currently tied for second in the NHL with 10 goals, the same amount as Penguins legend Sidney Crosby. Boston has won seven of its last seven games and they are 6-3-0 on the road this season.
On Saturday night, Pastrnak had the game-winning goal as Boston picked up a 2-1 win at Arizona (5-9-0). Besides the two games that he was suspended for a high hit against Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi (Detroit on Oct. 29 and Florida on Nov. 1), he has scored in all seven road games that he has appeared in. What’s more, he has already matched his 10 goals from his rookie season (in 46 games) and he’s only five behind his total goal-scoring output from 2015-16 (in 51 games). While his progression in his third NHL season has been impressive, Pastrnak knows that so much of it has to do with his linemates-Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand-who are at the top of their respective games. “It’s nice to play with those two guys,” noted Pastrnak. “Marchand is everywhere, he’s a great player. They’re both so strong on the puck and I try to find a spot to get open.”
Head coach Claude Julien also deserves some credit for giving Pastrnak more room for growth. In the past, he’s been known to have a quick hook for younger players if they made a mistake (particularly on the defensive end). Of course, it helps when you play with two of the best all-around stars in the league. One of the tangible ways that Pastrnak has improved in this campaign has been his strength: listed at 181 pounds, he’ll never be a bruiser (and besides that’s not his preferred style) but his one-timers (like the one he unleashed vs. the Coyotes) are noticeably more powerful.
Teams around the NHL will no doubt adjust to Pastrnak, thus making it harder for him to score at such a high pace. However, with his combination of speed and elite stickhandling skills, it’s hard to see him going through too many prolonged droughts. Hopefully Bruins GM Don Sweeney has learned from former GM Peter Chiarelli’s (now in Edmonton) fatal mistakes and he won’t feel the need to trade Pastrnak for pennies on the dollar anytime soon.
Follow Metro Boston Bruins beat writer Richard Slate on Twitter: @RichSlate