BOSTON – The good news is that David Pastrnak pulled off another highlight-reel goal in Sunday’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers when he toe-dragged and snapped in his 12th score of the season before knocking down all the Oil defenders in front of the net like bowling pins. The 21-year-old winger is on pace for 45 goals and 75 points on the season, and has made a mini-four game goal-scoring slump a distant thing of the past.
This is all good for an undermanned Bruins team that badly needs Pastrnak’s offensive skills and game-breaking ability with so many other playmakers out of the lineup.
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But Pastrnak was also a minus-2 in the Sunday night loss to the Oilers, had some really careless turnovers as the game wore on, and is tied for second-worst plus/minus on the Bruins with a minus-6 rating on the season.
It raises an interesting dilemma for a talented youngster that the Bruins invested $40 million into with a huge long term contract just a few months ago.
During his recent five-game stretch without a goal, Pastrnak was a plus-1 player with 10 shots on net and didn’t have as many glaring turnovers that led to offense for opponents. By his own admission, Pastrnak was playing it a little more conservatively and taking playing a solid 200-foot game into more account with the Bruins looking to tighten things up across the board.
Then he loosened things up and got a little riskier with the puck in the last few games, and -- lo and behold -- he’s got goals in two straight games while on pace for a career-high offensive output if he can remain healthy in this season of injury. It’s something Pastrnak admitted that he’s currently battling with and trying to find that balance between productive, mandatory offense and good-enough defense to allow Boston to play winning hockey.
“It was slow for a couple of games. I don’t know. Every year you’re going to go through those stretches where need to learn to stay focused on your game. When you’re on top of your game then you are getting goals,” said Pastrnak, who then referenced a stretch in late October when his defense and puck management became a topic of conversation. “The thing is when stuff was going bad with me defensively, all of my focus was on playing defense instead of offense. I don’t know if I need to get these things done together. I know that my strength is [in the offensive end] and I need to do my job in the D-zone. I should be able to do my offensive stuff every game.”
Clearly there are areas where Pastrnak needs to pick his spots, and perhaps curb some of the risky and overly fancy plays in the latter part of tight games where the Bruins are protecting a lead. It’s called situational awareness, and it’s something that will come with experience for a conscientious player in Pastrnak who wants to eventually play in all situations, and is getting entrusted more and more at the end of games. That’s something the Black and Gold did very well as a team during their recently, dearly departed four game winning streak.
But at the same time, a 45-goal pace is a 45-goal pace for Pastrnak. Nobody should do all that much to throw off an electric offensive talent that’s got the goods to carry the Bruins offense during a hot streak, and continue growing into the bright future of the Bruins franchise along with young D-man Charlie McAvoy.