BOSTON -- David Pastrnak certainly paid the price for his first Stanley Cup playoff experience.
The 20-year-old was sporting a giant, multi-colored and stitched up gash around his left eye from a Victor Hedman high stick during Boston's 4-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. But he also had a giant, crooked smile on his face after scoring a pair of goals in the victory.
"Obviously it's a new feeling for me, you know, so I'm really enjoying it," said Pastrnak, who led the Bruins with a plus-3 rating in the win and finished with seven shot attempts to go along with his 33rd and 34th goals, and 70th point, of the season. "It's a lot of fun, and it's exciting.
"You know, now we've got ourselves in a spot we can actually fight for home ice and a good spot in playoffs. We can play a little bit more relaxed and know that we've made it, so it's a lot of fun. It's still hockey. We'll try [to win], obviously and it's going to be a little tougher, you know. [But we're] going to be ready for it. It's my third year and it finally came, but it's the first of more to come."
Everybody should be excited at the prospect of what an electric offensive player like Pastrnak could do to elevate his game going into the postseason, and a top-notch, tough performance in a high pressure game like Tuesday night's was a good coming attraction. It was also a nice bounce-back from a subpar Pastrnak outing over the weekend in Chicago, where he was dropped from David Krejci's line and the 12:25 of ice time vs. the Blackhawks was his lowest total for the entire season.
So it was clear interim coach Bruce Cassidy was looking for a response from Pastrnak after the rare soft, turnover-prone performance from his dazzling young forward, and let's just say he got the hard-nosed, intelligent answer he was seeking out from his Czech winger in the Tampa win.
"I thought he was terrific," said Cassidy. "We sat down a little bit this morning, talked about his game. In Chicago, I thought he had his moments, and I thought he could've been heavier on the puck in certain situations to give us a better chance to defend when we did give it up. David is going to be a creative player. We want that in him. He's dynamic, he can be a game-changer, and we want all those things. We want him to want the puck, and those situations play to his strengths.
"But he also has to realize those times in a game when it gets closed down against good players that check him well that, you know, you've got to put the puck in a good place if you've got to give it up. That was the only message [to be sent]. Listen, he's a gamer. He comes to play every night. He's a terrific kid, he's got great character, and he wants to make a difference. So we're just trying to temper some of those situations where, you know, there's just too much risk."
So message received and delivered from Cassidy to another key player for the Bruins, and once again it elicited a big-time performance in a game the B's absolutely needed to get to punch Pastrnak's playoff ticket for the very first time.