Bruins

David Pastrnak needs to toughen up for the Bruins and knows it

David Pastrnak needs to toughen up for the Bruins and knows it

BRIGHTON, Mass – David Pastrnak was quick to say that whatever discomfort he had with his surgically repaired thumb didn’t impact his very erratic playoff performance.

It “didn’t feel the same way”, he said, after taking a hit to the hand in the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, but both the 23-year-old winger and sources within the Bruins organization insisted that Pastrnak was healthy during the postseason.

Injures were not the issue for the young forward by the time the Stanley Cup Final rolled around, and Pastrnak finished with just two goals, four points and a team-worst minus-7 in the seven-game series against the St. Louis Blues. Pastrnak wasn’t exactly terrible in the postseason with nine goals, 19 points and an even plus/minus rating in 24 games during the Stanley Cup playoffs, but he also wasn’t anywhere close to his best self from the regular season.

Instead Pastrnak was passing up clean looks at the net, fanning on one-timer opportunities that usually ended up in the back of the net and sometimes getting discouraged by the physical play going on around him. It wasn’t more evident than early in Game 4 of the Cup Final when he basically gave up on a puck battle in the first period while bracing for a hit that was coming his way.

Pastrnak admitted during this week’s breakup day at Warrior Ice Arena that the mental grind of the playoffs, and the criticism heaped on him, took a toll on the talented young winger.

“It was definitely tough. I wasn’t feeling great, but that’s why this was such a good group because we were always picking each other up. It was obviously challenging for me, but I had 25 guys to help pick me up just like I would do the opposite [for them],” said Pastrnak. “It was the mental stuff, you know? In this kind of life, even if you don’t want to see stuff, read stuff and blah-blah with the media, it’s tough. You’re always going to see it. And that’s fine, you know?

“I will take a lot of positives from this. I’m just going to get stronger mentally. So it was a good experience. It’s a big mental experience. I gained a lot this postseason. The mental stuff is what I learned the most. [I learned] that it doesn’t [expletive] matter if you play a bad friggen’ game. It’s the playoffs. Or if you have a bad shift. It’s the playoffs and you just need to come back to the bench and make sure you’re ready for the next shift no matter what happened behind you. It’s the tough part of hockey sometimes when you get back stuck on something instead of looking forward, and focusing on the next shift. Sometimes you get stuck on thinking what happened before and that brings you down kind of.”

It’s key that Pastrnak had diagnosed the problem and is already willing to use the inconsistent playoff performance for him as a learning experience.

The biggest lesson the talented young right winger needs to take is that Pasta needs to toughen up mentally and physically. He needs to be willing to pay the physical price to make plays in the Stanley Cup playoffs, and that means sticking his nose into puck battles rather than bracing for a puck before he’s won the Cup. It also means being willing to battle to get to the scoring areas rather than loitering on the perimeter when the puck is on the offensive zone.

Just as importantly it means staying in the game mentally and not allowing a slump to consume him at the most important time of the season. If teams know they can discourage Boston’s young star mentally and physically, Pastrnak is going to continue to get hammered each and every postseason he plays in Black and Gold.

It’s going to be of paramount importance that Pastrnak toughens up in both areas and returns to the form he had two years ago in the postseason. Pastrnak was dominant and game-breaking with six goals and 20 points in 12 games, and to this point in his career he still boasts strong numbers (17 goals and 43 points in 42 playoff games) in his Stanley Cup playoff career despite two out of three postseasons being less than stellar for him.  

Clearly the potential is there for him to be a giant weapon for the Bruins in the postseason, and the B’s will need him to be that if they’re going to continue pushing for Stanley Cups in the near future. But it’s going to take a mentally and physically tougher Pastrnak to withstand the pressures of being “the guy” for the Bruins no matter what gets thrown at him.

That should be his mission for this offseason after a long, challenging season, and it sounds like he’s already begun working on that summer improvement plan.

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Zdeno Chara 'grateful for the opportunity' to play, not focused on NHL playoff format fairness

Zdeno Chara 'grateful for the opportunity' to play, not focused on NHL playoff format fairness

In the aftermath of this week’s NHL announcement about the 24-team playoff format, there has been plenty of talk about fairness, asterisks and whether this plan will even come to fruition this summer as NHL players begin working to get back into playing shape.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara could have complained about the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins being forced into protecting their top seed during a round-robin tournament despite pretty much winning it fair and square during the regular season with a month left.

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Chara could have openly wondered about the safeness of an NHL return or talked extensively about whether the Cup champs will be considered regular champions despite so many oddities with this year’s proposed postseason.

Instead, the wise 43-year-old Chara simply showed gratitude that the NHL players might be able to get back to work, and perhaps in doing so can restore some sense of quasi-normalcy to sports fans eager to see games resume.

“The Players' Association with the player reps worked extremely hard to get to this point and come up with something that will be hopefully entertaining and exciting. I think the fans will enjoy it for sure. It’s never a perfect scenario. It’s not going to be set in stone like it would be after an 82-game regular season,” said Chara while speaking with B’s reporters on Zoom call on Thursday morning.

“It’s not going to be perfect. Anytime you’re going to have an unexpected kind of stoppage with teams at different peaks in their season, you had to come up with some sort of solution. What we see is probably the best [solution]. It’s one of those things where you can’t blame anyone or feel that it’s unfair.

For us, we have to be grateful for the opportunity we’re getting. When you look at the real-life perspective at what other people’s families and businesses are going through, we’re getting the chance to basically start back up where we ended the season. A lot of people aren’t getting that same chance. A lot of people lost financial support and businesses went down, and they will never get the same opportunities. We have to be grateful for the opportunity and take it as a huge motivation [and] excitement. [We need] to be grateful and embrace it.

As with most players focused on winning, Chara knows the Bruins will need to overcome all obstacles if they hope to lift the Stanley Cup, and a newfangled playoff format that was a little unfair to them is nothing compared to what’s happening in the world.

Chara is going to be a slam dunk Hall of Fame defenseman when he eventually retires from the Bruins even if that’s probably at least a couple of seasons from now.

But the 6-foot-9 D-man also showed in his answer why he’s a Hall of Fame person with the way he’s still got everything in proper perspective even as fans get a little excited about progress being made toward a return for the NHL season.

NHL announces Bruins have won these three end-of-season awards

NHL announces Bruins have won these three end-of-season awards

The NHL announced on Tuesday the 2019-20 regular season was finished, and as a result, it became time to announce the winners of some end-of-the-year awards.

Some of the awards, including the Hart Trophy for the league's most valuable player, still need to be voted on. Most of them are voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The awards based on stats, however, already have been determined.

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Three of the awards already determined will go to the Boston Bruins. The league officially announced all such awards with a press release Thursday.

Here's a quick recap of the awards won by the Bruins.

Presidents' Trophy
The team that finishes the regular season with the best record wins this award. This is the third time Boston has won the Presidents' Trophy since it was introduced ahead of the 1985-86 season. The B's also have won it in 1990 and 2014. The team that's won this trophy usually fails to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, only nine of the previous 33 Presidents' Trophy winners went on to win the Stanley Cup that same year. However, the last time it  happened was in 2013 when the Chicago Blackhawks won both in a shortened season, so maybe there's hope for the Bruins in 2020!

William M. Jennings Trophy
The Bruins had the best goalie duo in the league with starter Tuukka Rask and backup Jaroslav Halak. Boston finished the season allowing the fewest goals allowed, which means the team's goaltenders have won the William M. Jennings Trophy. Rask led the league with a 2.12 goals against average and 85 goals allowed in 41 appearances, and Halak ranked sixth with a 2.39 GAA and 73 goals allowed in 31 games played. This is the third time (1989-90 and 2008-09 previously) the Bruins have won this award since it was introduced in 1981-82. Rask has won the award for the first time, while Halak now has claimed it twice. Halak shared it with Brian Elliott when they played for the St. Louis Blues durng the 2011-12 campaign.

Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy
The league's leading goal scorer(s) win the award named after Montreal Canadiens legend Maurice Richard. Bruins winger David Pastrnak and Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin both scored 48 goals and will share the trophy. Pastrnak is the first B's player to lead the league in goals since Phil Esposito, who did it in six straight seasons from 1969-70 through 1974-75. Pastrnak fell just shy of becoming Boston's first 50-goal scorer since Cam Neely in 1993-94, but he should have plenty more chances to hit that milestone in the near future. 

Other awards?
It's quite possible the Bruins could take home other end-of-the-season awards. Pastrnak has a case to be a finalist for the Hart Trophy, but it's hard to envision him winning the award over Colorado Avalanche center Nathan MacKinnon or Edmonton Oilers center Leon Draisaitl. Bruins center Patrice Bergeron should be a finalist for the Frank J. Selke Trophy, which he's already won four times. Rask also is the favorite to win the second Vezina Trophy of his career.

Of course, the real prize for the Bruins is the Stanley Cup. They came so close to winning it last year, and after another dominant regular season, the Bruins are among the favorites to hoist the best trophy in sports later in 2020.