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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NHL Power Rankings: Who's leading the way at the All-Star break?

NHL Power Rankings: Who's leading the way at the All-Star break?

With the NHL All-Star break upon us, it’s time to focus on this weekend’s festivities in St. Louis where there will be a new skills challenge format, a great collection of the NHL’s best and a celebration of a pretty great NHL city that finally captured the Cup last season.

All of the NHL All-Star action will be on NBCSN and NBC, starting Friday with the skills challenge where David Pastrnak will undoubtedly look to defend his shot accuracy title, and the NHL’s hardest shot will again be a big draw even if Zdeno Chara won’t be there to wow the crowd.

For the fifth year in a row, there will be a 3-on-3 tournament on Saturday that will count as the All-Star Game, and there will be 19 new faces to All-Star Weekend with perennial stars like Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Artemi Panarin, Tuukka Rask and Vladimir Tarasenko missing due to injuries, or a desire to get some rest over the break. 

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According to ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski, there will even be a part of the skills challenge where players are firing pucks from the stands and the concourse down onto targets on the ice for extra points.

So it should be a ton of fun this weekend in St. Louis with a lot of fresh blood and enthusiasm.

Click here for the midseason NHL Power Rankings.

David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron among NHL's midseason award contenders

David Pastrnak, Patrice Bergeron among NHL's midseason award contenders

The NHL regular season midpoint is a natural time to take a peek at the candidates for the NHL Awards, and that’s exactly what the PHWA (Professional Hockey Writers Association) does with their Midseason NHL Awards timed to come out at All-Star weekend.

The first-place Bruins are well-represented, as Boston’s lone All-Star player representative David Pastrnak has been named one of three finalists for the Hart Trophy at the halfway mark.

The 23-year-old Pastrnak leads all players with 37 goals scored in 51 games played for the Bruins at the break and is fourth in the NHL with 70 points while on pace for 60 goals and 114 points this season.

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While Patrice Bergeron has missed time with injuries and Brad Marchand went ice cold in much of December and January, Pastrnak has been the constant game-breaker and power play weapon who, at times, has been the one thing pulling the Bruins through some of the tough times. Pastrnak was one of three players on the midseason Hart Trophy list along with Edmonton’s Connor McDavid and Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon in some very select company.

The Bruins were also represented on the Selke trophy midseason ballot as Patrice Bergeron was one of three finalists for the award for best defensive player, an award that No. 37 has already won four times in his esteemed NHL career.

Bergeron is winning 58.3 percent of his faceoffs while ranking fourth in the NHL with 550 draw wins overall and has posted 21 goals and 41 points in 42 games along with a plus-15 rating. Bergeron was named a Selke Trophy midseason finalist along with Philadelphia’s Sean Couturier and St. Louis center Ryan O’Reilly, a trio of names who are no strangers to being considered for the league’s top defensive award.

Here are the full results for the PHWA Midseason NHL Awards with 117 writers from all 32 NHL chapters participating who will also be voting on the genuine NHL Awards ballot at the end of the season. So it's a pretty good indicator both Pastrnak and Bergeron could be finalists at the end of the season as well:

Hart Trophy — to the player adjudged to be most valuable to his team.

  • 1. Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers
  • 2. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
  • 3. David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins

Norris Trophy — to the defenseman who demonstrates the greatest all-round ability in the position.

  • 1. John Carlson, Washington Capitals
  • 2. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators
  • 3. Dougie Hamilton, Carolina Hurricanes

Selke Trophy — to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game.

  • 1. Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers
  • 2. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
  • 3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Calder Trophy — to the player selected as the most proficient in his first year of competition.

  • 1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. Quinn Hughes, Vancouver Canucks
  • 3. Victor Olofsson, Buffalo Sabres

Lady Byng Trophy — to the player adjudged to have exhibited the best type of sportsmanship and gentlemanly conduct combined with a high standard of playing ability.

  • 1. Nathan MacKinnon, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. Auston Matthews, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 3. Ryan O’Reilly, St. Louis Blues

Vezina Trophy — to the goaltender adjudged to be the best at his position.

  • 1. Connor Hellebuyck, Winnipeg Jets
  • 2. Ben Bishop, Dallas Stars
  • 3. Darcy Kuemper, Arizona Coyotes

Jack Adams Award — to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team's success.

  • 1. Mike Sullivan, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 2. John Tortorella, Columbus Blue Jackets
  • 3. Craig Berube, St. Louis Blues

Jim Gregory GM of the Year Award — to the General Manager adjusted to have contributed most to his team's success.

  • 1. Joe Sakic, Colorado Avalanche
  • 2. John Chayka, Arizona Coyotes
  • 3. Doug Armstrong, St. Louis Blues

Rod Langway Award — to the defenseman who best excels in the defensive aspect of the game.

  • 1. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes
  • 2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
  • 3. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

Comeback Player of the Year Award — to the player who returned to a previous high level of performance that was interrupted by subpar play, long-term injury or major illness.

  • 1. William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 2. Anthony Duclair, Ottawa Senators
  • 3. Max Pacioretty, Vegas Golden Knights