Bruins

David Pastrnak walks line between dazzling offense and poor defense

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David Pastrnak walks line between dazzling offense and poor defense

BOSTON – The good news is that David Pastrnak pulled off another highlight-reel goal in Sunday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers when he toe-dragged and snapped in his 12th score of the season before knocking down all the Oil defenders in front of the net like bowling pins. The 21-year-old winger is on pace for 45 goals and 75 points on the season, and has made a mini-four game goal-scoring slump a distant thing of the past.  

This is all good for an undermanned Bruins team that badly needs Pastrnak’s offensive skills and game-breaking ability with so many other playmakers out of the lineup.

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But Pastrnak was also a minus-2 in the Sunday night loss to the Oilers, had some really careless turnovers as the game wore on, and is tied for second-worst plus/minus on the Bruins with a minus-6 rating on the season.

It raises an interesting dilemma for a talented youngster that the Bruins invested $40 million into with a huge long term contract just a few months ago.

During his recent five-game stretch without a goal, Pastrnak was a plus-1 player with 10 shots on net and didn’t have as many glaring turnovers that led to offense for opponents. By his own admission, Pastrnak was playing it a little more conservatively and taking playing a solid 200-foot game into more account with the Bruins looking to tighten things up across the board.

Then he loosened things up and got a little riskier with the puck in the last few games, and -- lo and behold -- he’s got goals in two straight games while on pace for a career-high offensive output if he can remain healthy in this season of injury. It’s something Pastrnak admitted that he’s currently battling with and trying to find that balance between productive, mandatory offense and good-enough defense to allow Boston to play winning hockey.

“It was slow for a couple of games. I don’t know. Every year you’re going to go through those stretches where need to learn to stay focused on your game. When you’re on top of your game then you are getting goals,” said Pastrnak, who then referenced a stretch in late October when his defense and puck management became a topic of conversation. “The thing is when stuff was going bad with me defensively, all of my focus was on playing defense instead of offense. I don’t know if I need to get these things done together. I know that my strength is [in the offensive end] and I need to do my job in the D-zone. I should be able to do my offensive stuff every game.”

Clearly there are areas where Pastrnak needs to pick his spots, and perhaps curb some of the risky and overly fancy plays in the latter part of tight games where the Bruins are protecting a lead. It’s called situational awareness, and it’s something that will come with experience for a conscientious player in Pastrnak who wants to eventually play in all situations, and is getting entrusted more and more at the end of games. That’s something the Black and Gold did very well as a team during their recently, dearly departed four game winning streak.

But at the same time, a 45-goal pace is a 45-goal pace for Pastrnak. Nobody should do all that much to throw off an electric offensive talent that’s got the goods to carry the Bruins offense during a hot streak, and continue growing into the bright future of the Bruins franchise along with young D-man Charlie McAvoy.  

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A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

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A return "imminent" for McQuaid after two-month absence

BRIGHTON, Mass – It sounds like the toughness quotient might be going up quite a bit higher for the Bruins in the near future.

Adam McQuaid may be cleared to play as soon as Monday night against the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least later on in the week if it doesn’t happen against the rough-and-tumble, Metro Division Blue Jackets. The 6-foot-5 hard-nosed defender has been out for nearly two months with a broken right fibula, but has been back skating with the Bruins for a couple of weeks.

“I don’t know if Monday he’ll be cleared, but he’s getting close. He’s practicing with us, so it’s imminent for him. I just don’t want to pinpoint an exact day,” said Cassidy of McQuaid, who was one of a handful of players along with Jake DeBrusk, Anders Bjork, Frank Vatrano, Paul Postma and Anton Khudobin that skated on Sunday at Warrior Ice Arena.

There certainly may be some rust in McQuaid’s game after missing the last 24 cgames dating back to the Oct. 19 injury. Ddding another tough customer and D-zone warrior certainly won't hurt the Bruins. In the short term, the presence of McQuaid could protect some of B's top players like Brad Marchand who has received some questionable hits over the last couple of months. In the long term his presence adds more size, strength and toughness in the defensive zone.

In terms of pairings it would be logical to swing Kevan Miller back over to the left side, and potentially pull rookie puck-mover Matt Grzelcyk out of the lineup once McQuaid is ready to play. But Bruce Cassidy indicated it won’t be that simple, and there may be times when the Bruins roll seven defensemen given their strength in numbers once McQuaid comes back.

“If you take the last guy in, Grzelcyk, [out of the lineup] then you’re back to your four righty [defensemen]. We had mixed levels of success with that, and then it’s a matter of who on the right Is going to come out if he stick with the three lefties,” said Cassidy. “That’s an internal discussion that we’ve already started to have. He will definitely help the penalty kill. It could be a different lineup every night where we go with six D one night, and then go with seven D the next night. It will create good competition.”

McQuaid wants to temper the excitement now that he’s on the verge of a return, and is simply putting in work until he’s given the green light to play. The busy NHL schedule and the lack of quality practice time isn't the perfect scenario for the 31-year-old defenseman to return, so it’s simply a matter of doing what’s best for player and team.

“I’d like to get back as soon as I can obviously. I’ve missed a lot of time, but it’s a process. I just try to approach it like I’m not getting my hopes up too much,” said McQuaid, who had an assist and a minus-3 in the six games he did appear in. “We’ll have a better idea tomorrow. The more and more game-like situations you get in [can help].

“We haven’t gone too far down the road so I don’t know exactly [when I’ll return]. I’m just out there trying to get closer, but I’m excited about where I’m at and the possibility of moving forward. It’s been fun watching the guys, but I can’t wait to get back in there and be part of a winning hockey team again.”

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

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Morning Skate: Senators kind of a mess right now

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while I still remain pretty conflicted about my thoughts on the Last Jedi. See yesterday’s morning skate for the full review.

*Happy Holidays from the Boston Bruins, who all wore spiffy Christmas-inspired suits into TD Garden for Saturday night’s game against the Rangers. The clear winners are Christmas Elf Brad Marchand and bedazzled Patrice Bergeron, but everybody is a winner when they’re in the holiday spirit.

*Here’s a blueprint for all 31 NHL teams to get an outdoor game next season if you’re really looking to run the concept into the ground.

*Everybody loves a goalie fight, and the Providence Bruins had one last night even if it was more like slightly angry hugging than actual fighting.

*This quick snippet from an Ottawa Senators radio broadcast this weekend is one of the oddest things I’ve heard in a while. No idea what took them down that path.

*Speaking of the Senators, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly says he has no idea why the Sens are having such big attendance problems at their arena. I can think of one reason: location, location and location.

*Larry Brooks goes over the Sean Avery memoir just in time for Christmas for all those looking for a stocking stuffer, or just looking for the perfect gift for that hockey rat in your life.

*Hacksaw Jim Duggan dropping the puck for a minor league hockey game is definitely something to brag about. Ho!

*For something completely different: 20 years later, the crazy story of how the blockbuster Titanic ultimately got made.

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