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Bruins' David Pastrnak is among NHL's biggest bargains — and he's getting better

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Bruins' David Pastrnak is among NHL's biggest bargains — and he's getting better

BOSTON — Monday afternoon served as a welcome reminder that David Pastrnak is one of the best young forwards in the NHL, and that the 23-year-old is back mentally and physically after battling through an up-and-down playoff performance last spring.

Pastrnak pumped in a career-high four goals in Boston’s 4-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks, and now has six goals in six games to start the season while once again kicking off a season where 50 goals and 100 points might be realistic goals for the game-breaker. It’s something that Pastrnak could have done last season had he avoided the late-season thumb injury that disrupted his best regular season, and left him at a bit of a disadvantage in the playoffs.

Now Pasta is looking for bigger and better things this time around.

“I definitely want to get to that point as a player. I think I can. It’s just going to take time,” said Pastrnak, of being a 50-goal scorer like Alex Ovechkin. “I think I can do it. [Alex Ovechkin] is a special player and he’s been on top of the league for a while. Sometimes he gets one chance in a game and it’s in the net. That’s the biggest thing. Sometimes I get four chances and it’s not in the net. It’s probably the consistency with him. He can have a bad game and still ends up with a goal.

“There is no regrets [about last season]. I just move forward. I want to get to that point where I have a shot at 50 goals. But it’s not my No. 1 focus. Hockey is a team sport and I’m just focused on being the best player I can be for this team.”

The four goals scored showed off all his elite-level skills and how his work over the last few years has heightened them. Pastrnak has worked hard on his one-timer over the last few years and it was one of the things that mysteriously deserted him during last spring’s playoff run. But he fired a bullet off a Patrice Bergeron backhanded dish for the B’s first goal and then snapped off a finishing shot in a 2-on-1 with Brad Marchand to close out the second period.

In the third he cleaned up pucks around the net and showed off his quick hands, scoring on a broken face-off play in the offensive zone.

Pastrnak looks every bit as good as he did last season when he scored 38 goals and 81 points in 66 games, and he wants to be even better for the Bruins this year.

“It’s obviously nice,” said Pastrnak of his four-goal performance. “That’s what I’m getting paid for. Obviously it’s good for the confidence to get some goals. It’s been really good with my linemates and now we get the two points in the standings. It’s a new year we’ve started and I’m just trying to be better than I was last year. That’s my focus every year coming into the season is being a little better than the year before. That’s what I’m working on.”

It all begs the question whether Pastrnak is the biggest bargain going in the NHL. After all, he is the 74th highest-paid player in the NHL and that means there are some pretty bad contracts out there around the league.

Pastrnak is signed at $6.66 million per season for the next four years, and was paid roughly $175,000 per goal last season. The numbers would be even lower if he had remained healthy, obviously.

Compare that number to Alex Ovechkin ($187,000 per goal), Auston Matthews ($314,000 per goal), John Tavares ($234,000 per goal), Steve Stamkos ($188,000 per goal), Patrick Kane ($238,000 per goal), Nikita Kucherov ($231,000 per goal) and Connor McDavid ($304,000 per goal), and Pastrnak looks like a great value that will get even better when he stays healthy enough to hit 40-50 goals on an annual basis.

Then again, Leon Draisaitl ($170,000 per goal) and Nathan MacKinnon ($153,000 per goal on a great contract for Colorado) come in lower than Pastrnak, and both Brayden Point and Alex DeBrincat were super bargains last season as 40-goal scorers on entry-level deals.

Likewise, Pastrnak isn’t even the best contract on his own team with Marchand ($170,000 per goal last year) coming off a 100-point season while holding down a salary of $6.125 million per season. But the Bruins are obviously happy to have him at his current number while knowing full well that there are still gains to be made in his game at 23 years old.

“He’s just a stronger person, works hard in practice. They have good chemistry, him and Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] on where he wants the puck. Torey [Krug] too, sliding it through there [on the power play], so that’s part of it as well. I think it’s just practice and some God-given ability and a bit of maturity in his strength,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[Pastrnak] has been real good for us. We’ve needed it, we’re not getting the balanced scoring yet. You know, it was like everyone else in the playoffs. He had his moments and he had his moments where he could have been better, no different. I don’t know why he’d need to put extra pressure on himself to be ‘on’ for us. If it’s coming from a good place then it’s a good thing, that he wants to be better.”

None of Monday’s four-goal performance takes away the sting from the Stanley Cup Final, when Pastrnak managed just two goals and four points along with a minus-7 in those seven games against the Blues. But it’s a reminder that Pastrnak is still learning, still getting better and still climbing to the very height of his hockey powers where things like “scoring four goals in a game” are entirely possible along with 50-goal seasons in his near future.  

Marchand's way of playing 'knockout' is perfectly on brand>>>>>

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Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron the only bright spot in brutal Bruins loss

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Talking Points: Patrice Bergeron the only bright spot in brutal Bruins loss

GOLD STAR: Anthony Duclair toiled with the Arizona Coyotes, Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets after some solid initial success in the desert with a 20-goal season on his resume, but it feels like the 24-year-old is enjoying a second life with the Ottawa Senators.

Duclair finished with a pair of goals and three points against the Bruins on Monday night and was making things happen pretty much every time he was on the ice. Duclair finished with two goals, three points, a plus-3 rating, six shots on net and five giveaways in his 16-plus minutes of ice time. Duclair’s first goal of the night gave the Senators a 2-0 lead and essentially put the Bruins deep in the hole before he iced things at the very end with an empty netter.

BLACK EYE: Torey Krug finished a minus-3 with just a single shot on net, and it could have been even worse if he hadn’t jumped off the ice just before Ottawa scored the first goal of the game in the first period. As it was, Krug had five shot attempts that were either blocked or missed their target and didn’t have enough offensively to help push along the Bruins power play when they really needed to do their damage.

Later on in the game Krug had some defensive issues as well and was among a number of Bruins players that finished with some pretty rough plus/minus numbers including Jake DeBrusk (minus-4), David Krejci (minus-3) and Brett Ritchie (minus-2).

TURNING POINT: The Bruins got a goal from Patrice Bergeron toward the end of the first period to halve Ottawa’s lead and went into the first intermission with a decent chance at winning the game. But then the Bruins came out and gave up a goal in the first two minutes of the second period and essentially let things slip through their fingers at that point. It was a botched play from Tuukka Rask, who attempted to play a puck behind the Boston net and just threw the puck to Vladislav Namestnikov, who set up Chris Tierney for the eventual game-winning goal.

It typified the gift goals that the Bruins gave them on the evening and made it clear it wasn’t going to be their night.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron missed the previous seven games with a lower-body injury and returned to be one of the best players on the ice for either team. Certainly, he was the best player on the ice for the Bruins after scoring a first period goal that got the Bruins in the game.

Bergeron finished with six shots on net, 10 shot attempts and 16-of-25 face-off wins to go along with a blocked shot in 21:43 of ice time. It would appear that Bergeron didn’t have any ill effects from the injury and was fully ready to take on a regular, intense workload after coming back from the injury. The only good news of the night was how good Bergeron looked in his return from injury.

BY THE NUMBERS: 38 – the number of saves for Anders Nilsson, who was a massive factor for the Senators shutting down the Boston power play when it really mattered and holding the Bruins to just two goals on 40 shots.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He’s a true hero...he inspired us all with everything he did...we're going to miss him dearly." –Torey Krug to reporters on the passing of Bruins fan and ALS awareness advocate Pete Frates, who courageously inspired so many during his fight with ALS before succumbing to it this week.

HAGGERTY: Is complacency the only thing that can derail Bruins?>>>

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NHL Highlights: Bruins suffer second straight regulation loss vs. lowly Senators

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NHL Highlights: Bruins suffer second straight regulation loss vs. lowly Senators

FINAL SCORE: Senators 5, Bruins 2

IN BRIEF: The Bruins put forth a subpar effort against the Senators, sleepwalking through most of the game en route to a second straight loss. The silver lining for the team was that Patrice Bergeron scored in his first game back after missing seven straight games with an injury.

BOX SCORE

BRUINS RECORD: 20-5-6 (46 points)

HIGHLIGHTS

ANISIMOV OPENS THE OTTAWA SCORING QUICKLY

B'S ALLOW EASY GOAL TO ANTHONY DUCLAIR

BERGERON CUTS THE LEAD IN HALF OFF FEED FROM PASTRNAK

BRUINS ALLOW ANOTHER MIND-BOGGLING GOAL

PAGEAU'S EMPTY-NET GOAL PUTS THINGS SEEMINGLY OUT OF REACH

JAKE DEBRUSK'S LATE GOAL

UP NEXT:
@ Washington Capitals, 7 p.m., NBC Sports Network

HAGGERTY: Is complacency the only thing that can derail Bruins?>>>

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