The David Pastrnak Show is just getting started for Bruins after latest hat trick

The David Pastrnak Show is just getting started for Bruins after latest hat trick

BOSTON – In a season full of milestones, accomplishments and sign-posts of greatness, another hat trick against the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night was a big one for 23-year-old David Pastrnak.

The Bruins game-breaking winger didn’t do much in Wednesday night’s 4-1 win over the Habs aside from score his fourth hat trick of the season, re-take the NHL scoring lead with his 39th, 40th and 41st goals of the season, surpass the 40-goal plateau for the first time in his NHL career and become the team's first 40-goal scorer in almost 20 years. Glen Murray was the last Bruins player to do it back in the 2002-03 season.

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To put that in perspective as to how long it’s been since it actually happened, Muzz’s 44-goal year was the season prior to Patrice Bergeron’s rookie campaign in the NHL as the youngest player in the league at 18 years old. Yawn, just another evening when long-held Bruins records are getting smashed by the happy-go-lucky goal-scorer from the Czech Republic.

“We have a great line and we’ve been together for a long time, so we know what to expect from each other. I couldn’t do any of it without them,” said Pastrnak, who had gone 10 days and four games without scoring a goal and had watched a couple of players pass him by in the NHL scoring race over that time. “Obviously I’m happy for [40 goals]. It’s something I hadn’t accomplished in my career. But I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I just want to keep it rolling.”

It wasn’t even a particularly dazzling night for the game-breaking Pastrnak as it was linemate Brad Marchand that made a highlight reel dangle and dish to set up a tap-in for him on the first goal, and a transition play with a nice feed from Sean Kuraly that set up his second goal. The third score was Pastrnak cleaning up a loose puck in front of the Montreal net on 4-on-3 power play, and then the hats came raining down from above.

Now Pastrnak is back on pace for 60 goals and 115 points on the season, and he should be part of an exhilarating scoring race with Alex Ovechkin and Auston Matthews after passing both with Wednesday night’s second hat trick of the season against Montreal.

“The [40 goals] is a career-high, right? So that means he’s moving forward. That’s what you want, your younger players to keep taking steps. There’s a lot of growth in his game that I like. Obviously, we want to see him continue to score; it helps us win games. So now he’s at forty and who knows what’s next, right?” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. “There’s still a lot of hockey left. I think the way he started this year, we’d all thought he’d be in that area anyway, challenging for fifty [goals].

“That’ll be the next conversation I assume, and good for him. He deserves it. He’s done a lot of things well and he goes to the right spots, worked on his shot, worked on his strength to handle pucks. Let’s see him keep going.”

The natural question to ask is what the sky-high limit is for Pastrnak?

We might just see it this very season as Pastrnak is in a prime spot for a young scorer. He serves as the right winger on the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Marchand still at their prime level of performance, and with Pastrnak himself just 23 years old and entering the prime years of his NHL career. It remains to be seen how much longer Pastrnak will have this kind of talent surrounding him and supporting him in Boston given that it’s an aging group of core players on the B’s roster.

The talent isn’t going to go anywhere for Pastrnak, though, with his speed, creativity, deadly shot and flashy hands firmly intact, so he should be one of the NHL’s top goal scorers for the next decade provided he remains healthy. He might even be the kind of rare, elite player that could someday threaten for some truly big numbers like the 700 career goals that Ovechkin is approaching while he battles with Pastrnak for the NHL’s scoring title this year.

He’s already showing the ability to make adjustments and score in different ways as opponents attempt to contain him by any means possible. For example, Pastrnak didn’t score a single goal in last night’s hat trick on his patented one-timer from the face-off circle. Some scorers are rendered totally ineffective when their favorite spot on the ice is taken away from them, but Pastrnak’s creativity and array of skills allow him to score from just about anywhere.

“[Pastrnak] has really become an elite player in the league. The fact that he’s been able to still find ways to score even though teams are honing in on him is very impressive,” said Marchand. “There are not many players in the league that can do that. He puts up with the abuse and guys shadowing him and still finds ways to score in different situations.

“He cares about the [defensive] aspect, he wants to win and he’s a great teammate, so he’s going to be a hell of a player for a long time. It’s kind of scary to look at where his ceiling might be. He continues to push it and get better. It’s fun to watch. It’s fun to play with him. You always have to be on your toes because you never know what he’s going to do. I don’t even think he knows what he’s going to do half of the time. It makes it dangerous for other teams and other players because he’s so unpredictable.”  

There are still questions looming for Pastrnak when he gets to the postseason after last spring’s inconsistency during the Cup Final run, and it goes without saying the young winger needs to remain healthy after a freak thumb injury adversely impacted both his fate and that of his team last spring.

But Wednesday night was a stopping point in a brilliant career year for Pastrnak to appreciate everything he’s already accomplished, and wonder if this might be the start of the greatest game-breaking scorer in Bruins history truly starting to get things going. It certainly feels that way after watching another night of the Pastrnak Show in Boston.

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Potential Bruins trade target Ilya Kovalchuk heading to the Capitals

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Potential Bruins trade target Ilya Kovalchuk heading to the Capitals

The Boston Bruins passed on Ilya Kovalchuk once before. And now, ahead of the 2020 NHL trade deadline, it looks like they have passed on him again.

While there were rumors in early February that the Montreal Canadiens winger was drawing interest from the Bruins, they weren't the team that ultimately ended up trading for him.

Instead, the Washington Capitals acquired Kovalchuk to help their offense for the cost of a third-round pick, according to the Canadiens official Twitter account.

It's also worth noting that the Canadiens ate 50 percent of Kovalchuk's minuscule salary to help the cap-strapped Capitals, according to TSN's Pierre LeBrun.

So, the Kovalchuk trade will take another potential Bruins trade target off the board a day ahead of the NHL's trade deadline.

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Kovalchuk started the season with the Los Angeles Kings but fell out of favor amid struggles for both himself and the team. The Bruins were rumored to be among the initial suitors following his buyout, but they elected not to pursue him, instead sticking with Brett Ritchie and David Backes at the time. Ritchie has since been waived while Backes was waived and subsequently traded.

Kovalchuk has nine goals and 13 assists in 39 games played this season and has looked rejuvenated with the Canadiens. It's possible that he could've provided the team with a scoring jolt they need on the second line and at the very least, he would've provided cheap, veteran depth on either wing.

But it's also possible the team could be holding out in hopes of landing a bigger fish, like Chris Kreider of the New York Rangers, as they look to make another run to the Stanley Cup Final. And they did just land Ondrej Kase in a trade involving Backes, so perhaps they're hoping he can make an impact on their middle-two lines.

We'll soon see exactly what the Bruins have planned for Monday. But if Don Sweeney wants to make one last move to strengthen the Bruins core, he'll have to move fast to get it done as trade options continue to fly off the board.

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Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Who will be next to 700 goals now that Alex Ovechkin has done it? It sure feels like David Pastrnak

Alex Ovechkin left no doubt about his 700th career goal in the NHL when he scored it on Saturday afternoon, and good for him.

It came from the opposite face-off circle from where No. 8 does most of his damage for the Washington Capitals power play, but it was still an Ovie one-time rocket that he roofed past New Jersey goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood. It’s really the way any milestone NHL goal should be for a legendary NHLer like Ovechkin.

It was one of many things to celebrate about the NHL on a jam-packed Saturday in February and it also reminded everybody the 34-year-old Capitals star is the premier goal-scorer and game-breaker of his generation. With 42 goals already on his ledger for this season while on a pace for 57 goals, it’s also clear the Russian scoring machine isn’t all that close to slowing down either.

He may pass by Mike Gartner (708 goals) on the all-time list as early as this season, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Wayne Gretzky’s NHL-record 894 career goals could be attainable for Ovie as well. He’d have to play until he was 40 years old and continue to average 40 goals per season, but Ovechkin has put himself in position to at least have a shot at the Great One.

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It all begs the question as to which player will be next to hit the 700 goals milestone in the NHL.

Steve Stamkos may get there with 422 career goals at 30 years old with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but he’s probably got the best chance of any NHL player over the age of 25 years old. He’s on pace for 39 goals this season and would need to stay on that pace until he was 37 years old to reach that mark, a possibility given his work ethic, his status in Tampa Bay, and an offensive game that’s centered around his one-timer on the power play.

But the guy with perhaps the best shot to get there in the future?

It’s got to be 23-year-old Bruins superstar David Pastrnak, who leads the NHL with 45 goals after scoring two more in Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to the Canucks, and is on pace for 60 goals and 115 points in a monster season for the Black and Gold.

Pastrnak is going to finish this season close to 200 career goals at just 23 years old, and arguably has 15 good seasons in front of him based on dazzling offensive skills once again prominently reliant on a deadly one-timer from the face-off dot.

All Pastrnak has to do is average 35 goals per season until he’s 38 years old to reach the 700-goal milestone at 38 years old, and he’ll get close to 800 career goals if he can average 40 goals per season over the next decade-and-a-half. Obviously, it’s dependent on Pastrnak remaining healthy and productive for a long, long time, but the Bruins right winger is in a position to accomplish some of these things after entering the NHL as its youngest player during his 2014-15 NHL rookie season.

Certainly, Pastrnak’s coach thinks he can get there, and the winger should be in line for massive numbers as long as he’s part of the Perfection Line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.

“I’m going to say Pasta because I love the kid, and he’s young, and he’s scoring,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked who might be the next 700-goal guy in the NHL. “I think it’s always about health, it’s always [about] are you surrounded by good players to help you? I mean, if you’re the only guy out there on your team, I think it would be hard every night for 82 games to try to push that. [Pastrnak] has got good support. Yeah, I think he’s one of those guys. I haven’t looked close enough to [Steven] Stamkos’ age to see what – because you always have to project, but in terms of the younger guys, Laine could be that guy because he has such a terrific shot; you tend not to lose that. He’s always going to be on the power play. That’s what’s helped Ovi [Alex Ovechkin] obviously to be able to maintain his sort of marks on the power play.

“But I think a lot of it has to do with health. I would have to think about that one a little bit more about which guys probably after two, three years. Is [Nikita] Kucherov in that mix? Does he score enough, or does he pass too much? Brayden Point scores a lot of goals, but he’s also a disher at times. I think it does take a certain amount of shot-first mentality if you’re going to challenge that many. Auston

Matthews probably has to be in that conversation as well, the way he shoots the puck. There are guys out there, [but] it’s probably just a little early to predict with those younger guys.”

Similar to Pastrnak, the 22-year-old Matthews would need to average 35 goals per season for the next 15 years to get to the 700-goal mark. That’s a doable thing for a former No. 1 overall pick and a player that’s on pace for 56 goals of his own this season for the Maple Leafs. The same with 24-year-old Leon Draisaitl, who will finish with around 170 career goals after this season and would need to average 35 goals per season until he was 39 years old to reach that mark as well.

Put all of it together and it feels like Pastrnak and Matthews are the two most likely candidates to be the next 700-goal guys in the league, so let’s put this article in a time capsule and release it 15 years from now to how it all actually played out.