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.
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