Haggerty: Pastrnak’s price keeps going up, but Bruins will gladly pay

Haggerty: Pastrnak’s price keeps going up, but Bruins will gladly pay

At this point, there’s no really no limit to the offensive pyrotechnics show that 20-year-old David Pastrnak is putting on nightly for the Bruins. 

The electric Pastrnak scored his 16th goal of the season in his 22nd game in the 4-3 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on Wednesday night. He was at the heart of a Bruins comeback that erased a three-goal deficit on the way to an overtime point. It was vintage Pastrnak with the speedy winger stripping Evgeny Kuznetsov of the puck at Washington’s offensive blue line, and then winning a race to the net before sliding a backhanded shot through Braden Holtby’s leg pads. 

It was a pure speed and skill play at its very core and that’s not an observation you’ve always been able to make about the B’s offense. 

That narrowed Washington’s lead to a one goal at the end of the second period and set things up for the Bruins to make an impressive final push in the closing 20 minutes. For Pastrnak, it also continues a breakout season that began with dedicating himself to improving his size and strength last summer, and included getting up to a weight of 190 pounds that allows him to stand in, stay on his skates and win key one-on-one battles all over the ice. 

But the most important difference for Pastrnak is the pure, unadulterated offense he’s generating for the Black and Gold this season. After two years of learning and development on the job, the Czech winger is totally cashing in on the elite offensive skills he brought into the league as the youngest player in the NHL two seasons ago. He’s on pace to become the fourth Bruins player in the past 25 years to hit the 40-goal mark. He is the exact kind of game-breaking force the B’s have been desperately yearning for since they shipped Tyler Seguin to Dallas following the 2013 Stanley Cup Final. 

“He’s burying pucks at a great rate. There’s no question. But I think the way that he’s done it…he soaks it all in and you see Pasta not at all full of himself, and coming in here where he’s always light-hearted and has a great day every day seemingly,” said David Backes. “You love to have guys at the rink like that who bring the energy every day, and a young guy that loves the game, and is always working on it and really using all the tools that he’s been given. 

“There’s a lot of season left to continue to add to that [goal] total and to continue to help us win games. He’ll tell you that the most important part of him scoring is that it helps us win games, and that’s what the mindset is in this [dressing] room.”

As Backes alluded to, don’t expect the fun-loving, hard-working Pastrnak to get caught up in the numbers, or be overwhelmed with his standing as the third-leading scorer in the NHL behind a couple of guys named Sidney Crosby and Patrik Laine. 

After all, this is a guy that purposefully hasn’t gone to get his two front teeth fixed after they were smashed by a high stick a few weeks back, and instead made a Dumb and Dumber joke on his Instagram account. 

So, Pastrnak isn’t hung up on the cosmetics of his breakthrough third NHL season. He’s intent on doing what’s been working for him this season. 

“Obviously there’s social media that I’m on, so I kind of see [the stat leaders] a little bit. But it’s obviously not something I’m focused on or looking for. So far it’s getting [the puck] in, but in ten games it could be somebody else who has that goal streak, you know?” said Pastrnak. “As long as we’re winning games it doesn’t matter whether you’re on the top [of the league’s goal scorers] or whether you’re on the bottom. 

“We are like one team, and that’s the way we’re going to get better. It’s not a one-man unit, it’s 22 guys. I’m just trying to play the same way. It’s not like I’m going to have to score every game. Nobody is going to score every game in this league. When I have a chance I still have in my mindset that I want to pass a little too much, so I’ll just keep playing the same way. We have the same chances, five or six scoring chances, every game. Sometimes four of them are going to go in, sometimes one and sometimes none. I think we did a good job as a line and I have to give a lot of credit to my linemates. Without them, I wouldn’t have all these goals.”

One thing that will be on the minds of Bruins management, however, as the numbers pile up for Pastrnak: his contract status beyond this season. Pastrnak will be a restricted free agent following this breakout year, and he has perfectly timed his goal-scoring ascension with his ability to monetarily maximize the situation with a giant second contract.

If Pastrnak stays healthy and productive enough this season for 30-40 goals and 60-70 points (and he’s nearly halfway there just 27 games into the season), then he’s looking at the same kind of contract handed out to young, productive players like Johnny Gaudreau, Jonathan Huberdeau, Sean Monahan, Jaden Schwartz, Nathan MacKinnon and Mark Schiefele, in the range of five to six years at around $6 million per season, give or take a few hundred thousand per season. 

The real “nightmare” scenario for the Bruins is Pastrnak truly goes supersonic offensively and puts himself in a position where he can demand Vladimir Tarasenko money (eight years, $60 million) in a second contract. Certainly ,Pastrnak is realizing his star potential at the NHL level in his third season and may have NHL All-Star games and other honors in his near future, but he’s not quite yet at Tarasenko’s level of sustained, consistent excellence as he exits his entry-level deal. 

“If I could find a similarity it would be in the way they can both just find the open ice, where they can get available and the puck just seems to find those guys where they’re able to put it where they need to score goals,” said Backes, a longtime teammate of Tarasenko with the St. Louis Blues. “Pastrnak is a little more opportunistic closer to the net in finding loose pucks and scooping them in. They both have great shots,  but Tarasenko is a little more of a delay, find the late ice, get the late pass and be able to rip one past the goalie from a little bit further away. 

“They both have great one-timers. There’s probably a lot of similarities, but I think Pasta working with his linemates and the chemistry they’ve been able to achieve is awesome to see, and is going to be awesome for this group.”

Clearly, the Bruins want to avoid getting into a potential stalemate situation with Pastrnak where other, offensively-starved and desperate teams could throw offer sheets his way. This is a big part of the reason why the B’s opted not to go the nuclear route in throwing an offer sheet at Winnipeg defenseman Jacob Trouba last summer, and open themselves up for another team to do it to them. Instead, the Bruins let the situation play itself with Trouba, and didn’t send a message that NHL poachers could come after Pastrnak if he’s somehow without a contract extension after the July 1 opening of free agency. 

Nobody is expecting it to play out in any kind of adversarial way, given how much Pastrnak enjoys playing in Boston and how much the B’s value their budding superstar. The Bruins have enough cap space to ultimately make it all work with their 20-year-old scoring machine, and his level of breathtaking skill and natural scoring ability is nearly impossible to replace. 

So, it should be all good for the Black and Gold: there’s no reason to think Pastrnak is going to fall off the cliff offensively from his torrid start, and there’s no reason to think he won’t be doing it for the Black and Gold for a long, long time to come. It goes without saying, though, that everybody will feel a lot better when Pastrnak is signed on the dotted line, and the offense keeps pouring in from the puck prodigy. 


Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

USA TODAY Sports Photo

Krug steps up as Bruins stars go down

The Bruins have managed to take three of a possible six points since Zdeno Chara went down in the third period of last week's comeback win over the Carolina Hurricanes, and they've done it completely without their top pairing since Charlie McAvoy has also been out all this time.

There are a number of factors behind the ability to withstand the injuries, of course, and the entire defense corps was stellar at both ends in the shutout win over Tampa Bay last weekend.


But it's Torey Krug who's really stepped up his game. He had three assists and 15 shots on net in those three games, and was immense in the win over the Lightning.

Krug has surpassed the 50-point plateau for the second straight season, a major accomplishment for a defenseman who prides himself on his puck-moving and power-play work.

"You know, he has [stepped up]," coach Bruce Cassidy said of Krug, adding: "Torey is always going to get his numbers, but he's really added to it 5-on-5 . . . [It] was comforting to see that [without Chara and McAvoy] we shut out one of the best teams [in the NHL], at home, that was rested. You've got to take something out of that. It was one of 82 [games], but that was a real positive for our guys."

For Krug, the challenge of stepping up and being a leader in the team's time of need is the kind of thing he takes pride in responding to with an elevated level of play.

"I'm in the business of winning hockey games and helping my team win," said Krug. "It falls on my shoulders to produce some offense from the back end. And [when] we're missing a couple of guys from the back end that do that push the pace, then you've got to step up and make some plays. When you play with a lot of great players then you'll get your points, and you just need to worry about the defensive zone first.

"We're confident in everybody in this room. A lot of people think that the guys on our back end can't get the job done, so for us to step up [is a good thing]."


The biggest sign of Krug's increased responsibility? He topped 26 minutes of ice time in two of the three games since Chara was injured. Only once before, when he was on the ice for 27-plus minutes against the Rangers in early November, has he played more than that.

The loss of Chara and McAvoy has forced Krug to go above and beyond his normal range of duties and he's stepped up and embraced it. That's what good players on good teams do, and it's something Krug has consistently done in the big moments since arriving in Boston five years ago.


Erik Karlsson and wife Melinda mourn death of their son

File Photo

Erik Karlsson and wife Melinda mourn death of their son

The Ottawa Senators announced Tuesday that team captain Erik Karlsson and his wife Melinda lost their son one month before his due date.


"The collective thoughts and prayers of the Ottawa Senators organization, the city of Ottawa and entire hockey community rest with Erik and Melinda Karlsson following the loss of their son.

We ask that you respect the family's wishes for privacy during the grieving process."

The couple announced via Instagram in November that they were expecting, and the CBC reports the baby was due in April.

Sens head coach Guy Boucher spoke about the tragedy after Ottawa's game vs the Panthers on Tuesday (1:36 mark in video below).

Karlsson, a rumored Bruins target before the trade deadline, received heartfelt condolences from the hockey world on Twitter:

Our thoughts too go out to Erik and Melinda during this incredibly difficult time.