Bruce Cassidy on David Pastrnak getting targeted: 'He just needs to be ready for it'

Bruce Cassidy on David Pastrnak getting targeted: 'He just needs to be ready for it'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Though the game was a couple of days ago, the talk around the Bruins on Tuesday was again about the targeting of the NHL’s leading scorer, David Pastrnak.

The 23-year-old Bruins sniper leads the NHL by a wide margin with 25 goals this season and is on pace to tie the franchise-record 76 goals scored by Bruins legend Phil Esposito. At this point, nobody has been able to contain him. 

Ottawa tried shadowing Pastrnak defensively last week, and both the Rangers and Canadiens last weekend employed the strategy of roughing up No. 88 in order to discourage him. It didn’t work out for either team as Pastrnak scored instrumental third-period goals against both the Blueshirts and the Habs, but it’s also a pattern that could become routine as Pastrnak keeps on scoring goals.

While the old-school hockey mentality would be to protect Pastrnak by going after opponents that take runs at him, that isn’t what happened on Sunday night against Montreal when Shea Weber, Jake Armia, Ben Chariot and Jeff Petry all took turns giving him the rough treatment. Instead, the Bruins pushed back a bit, scored a few goals and ending up winning the game in the best long-term payback for it.

Cassidy said again on Tuesday ahead of the home tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes that it’s going to be on Pastrnak to “be ready for it” rather than his teammates step up to protect him.

“When you’re a better player, that happens. He’ll just have to keep his head up a little more. There were a couple of against the Rangers and Montreal the other night that were borderline late. You hope that the league takes care of the players when those situations happen. But he just needs to be ready for it,” Cassidy said. “That’s just the way it is. When you’re a good player you just get targeted more. If you don’t want to get hit that often or get targeted, be an average player. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful, but that’s the way it goes.

“We circle guys on the other team’s lineup all the time in terms of slowing them down. How are we going to do it? Well, deny them the puck, good sticks and be physical. There’s a bunch of different ways you can do it, but clearly being physical was on Montreal’s agenda the other night. As long as it’s within the rules, that’s just hockey.”

Part of the reason Cassidy has to take this approach is the NHL continuing to legislate fighting and frontier justice out of the league and part of it is simply that the Bruins don’t have too many players on their roster capable of protecting Pastrnak as a deterrent.

Aside from 42-year-old Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and 35-year-old David Backes, just back from a concussion, there aren’t too many players that are going to put any fear into opposition looking to take liberties with the Bruins’ game-breaking force.

With that in mind, the B’s better that Pastrnak “being ready for it” also protects him from getting injured as a result of the increased punishment headed his way. Because it seems as if an injury is about the only thing capable of slowing Pastrnak down as he keeps on scoring at an unheard-of pace in today’s NHL.

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Krejci (upper body) out for Sunday afternoon game vs Penguins

Krejci (upper body) out for Sunday afternoon game vs Penguins

BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins will be without playmaking center David Krejci again on Sunday afternoon against the Pittsburgh Penguins as he’s been ruled out for the second half of the home-and-home series against Pittsburgh. 

It’s believed to be a lower-back issue for Krejci, 33, something he’s battled the past few years. He also missed the B's win Thursday over Pittsburgh in Boston.

The hope is that Krejci will feel good enough to play in the Tuesday pre-All-Star break finale against the Vegas Golden Knights ahead of a 10-day break around the bye week and All-Star weekend, then again an extended rest period of more than two weeks for the veteran second-line center might not be the worst thing in the world either.

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“He’s not traveling. He didn’t skate today so he doesn’t have a chance to play [on Sunday],” coach Bruce Cassidy of Krejci, who has 11 goals and 32 points in 41 games this season, but will miss his ninth game of the season due to injuries on Sunday. “We’ll look at Tuesday if he’ll skate on Monday, but then it becomes an issue of are you better off just getting a whole break in there. If he can come in and skate [on Monday] then that would be a good measure for [his readiness for] Tuesday.”

Charlie Coyle will bump up in his place between Jake DeBrusk and Anders Bjork and Par Lindholm will enter the lineup as a third-line center with Krejci still injured. It should be the same exact lineup as the one that scored a convincing 4-1 win over the Penguins on Thursday night.

Ahead of practice on Saturday the Bruins also recalled 6-foot-5 goaltending prospect Dan Vladar and Max Lagace was sent back down to Providence after he stopped 24 of 26 shots in the P-Bruins' 2-1 loss to Bridgeport on Friday night.  

Here are the projected Bruins line combos and D-pairings against the Penguins based on Saturday practice at Warrior Ice Arena:









Kuhlman jumps back in and helps Bruins while 'keeping it simple'

Kuhlman jumps back in and helps Bruins while 'keeping it simple'

The Bruins immediately went the speed and skill route after removing Brett Ritchie from the roster with Karson Kuhlman notching a pair of assists in a big win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Kuhlman finished with the two helpers and a plus-2 rating in just 9:56 of ice time in his first NHL appearance since he broke a bone in his leg back in mid-October. 

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It was obviously a promising start for Kuhlman in his second go-around with the Bruins this season and he immediately showed some chemistry with the second- and third-line forwards he was paired with throughout the 4-1 win on Thursday night. It’s now up to Kuhlman to keep it up after showing in the past that his game fades a bit once he plays a few games in a row and enters back into the grind of the NHL.

His speed and tenacity could help the Bruins in the short term, but only if he’s got the ability to play that way just about every night.

“What I like about [Karson] Kuhlman is what I’ve always said, is that he can sit for stretches. You know, you get into those power plays and he doesn’t get that many minutes, and his motor gets zero to sixty in a hurry,” said Bruce Cassidy. “The bigger-body guys, they just naturally have a tougher time with that when they sit, it just tends to be the way it is. So, that’s one thing we’ve always liked about Kuhly — he can get up, get motor, get on pucks, get on defense, win some races.

“I mean, tonight [Thursday] he obviously chipped in a little bit of offense, good for him. We expect some level of offense and to get it right away is a nice win, it’s nice to have that production. Drives the net on the [Sean] Kuraly goal — something else we’ve talked about, getting inside a little more. Big or small, we need that. Against good teams, you have to be able to do that. All in all, Kuhly, nice night for what he brings and we’re happy to have him back. He’s a nice player for us.”

The Bruins went into this season with Kuhlman earmarked as a top-six winger for David Krejci after he put together three goals and five points in 11 games last season and had a few moments in the playoff run to the Stanley Cup Final as well. It was as much a statement about the Bruins being short on top-six wingers as much as it was about their excitement in Kuhlman’s game. That remains the case with the trade deadline looming next month.  

“It was great to be back, to be honest with you. A lot of adrenaline and my legs were there and my conditioning was there. So, I was happy to be where we were at. I was happy to be back,” said Kuhlman. “It was just getting to the bench and re-focusing on what I can do to help the team win. My game is getting up and down the ice, winning puck battles and getting pucks to the net. Keeping it simple is one of the best things I can do to help this team.”

Some have deduced that Kuhlman (5-11, 185) replacing Ritchie (6-4, 220) means the Bruins have consciously chosen speed and skill over size and strength for the long haul and it remains to be seen if that’s the case. What Kuhlman, 24, did do is again show he's capable of helping the Bruins in short bursts and against smaller, speedier opponents. That in itself is no small feat for a team in search of energy and wins right now.