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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John Tavares 'still bitter' about Maple Leafs' loss to Bruins in playoffs

John Tavares 'still bitter' about Maple Leafs' loss to Bruins in playoffs

Unlike a few of his Maple Leafs teammates, John Tavares hasn't gotten used to coming up just short vs. the Bruins in the playoffs.

Tavares' first season in Toronto came to an end in April after the Leafs fell to the B's in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference First Round. The star center admitted to Mike Zeisberger of NHL.com on Friday he still hasn't recovered from blowing the series lead vs. Boston.

"I'm still bitter," Tavares told Zeisberger. "We were up 3-2 in that series. We thought we were in the driver's seat and we just didn't find a way to put the nail in the coffin … to really finish them off. It's something we have to learn from."

Tavares' frustration is understandable. The Maple Leafs acquired the 28-year-old last summer to help them get over the hump, only to finish their season with the same result: a first-round exist courtesy of the Bruins.

Fortunately for Tavares, the six years remaining on his $77 million contract give him plenty of time to get his revenge.

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Bruins sign Russian prospect Pavel Shen to entry-level deal

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Bruins sign Russian prospect Pavel Shen to entry-level deal

The Bruins made a couple of moves in the aftermath of last month’s development camp, and another one of those dominoes fell on Tuesday when they announced the signing of Russian draft pick Pavel Shen to a three-year deal.

Shen had to terminate his KHL/MHL contract with Tolpar Ufa in order to pave the way to come to Boston this fall for both rookie camp and NHL training camp.

The three-year entry level deal goes through the 2021-22 NHL season and will pay the young forward $809,167 per season as he gives North American hockey a try after playing in the KHL over the last couple of seasons. The 19-year-old has appeared in 49 KHL games over the last two seasons with a couple of goals and three points, and tore up the Russian Junior Hockey League (MHL) with 12 goals and 27 points in 34 games over the last two years.

Shen was a seventh round pick (212th overall) in the 2018 NHL Draft, and was a bright spot at this past June’s development camp in Boston showing both a playmaking flair and some pretty strong puck possession skills for a young player. The skating and goal-scoring were also pretty good, and the performance certainly merited a chance to see how good he can be at the AHL and NHL levels over the next few years.

Given Shen’s age, the transition from the KHL to North American hockey and the change in culture, it’s not expected that the 6-foot, 190-pound youngster is going to be in serious competition for a forward spot in Boston this fall. But bringing Shen over to Providence will be a better place for his development than his spot as a reserve player in the KHL over the last couple of seasons, and should accelerate the growth in a player who's got some offensive skills.

Here's what we had to say about Shen during last month’s development camp.

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