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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panthers

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Talking Points: Krejci, DeBrusk answer the bell in Bruins' win over Panthers

Here are my talking points from tonight's 4-2 Bruins win in South Florida . . .

GOLD STAR: David Krejci didn’t have a single point during the five-game losing streak. But on Saturday night he stepped up and, lo and behold, the Bruins took home two points. It was Krejci helped kick-start the transition game for Jake DeBrusk’s goal in the first period, and then scored one of his own in the second on a strike from the top of the faceoff circle. Krejci finished with a goal and two points and a plus-2 rating in 16:20 of ice time. He also had five shot attempts and won 9-of-14 faceoffs in a game where the second line providence plenty of offense and pressure. Bruce Cassidy slipped Charlie Coyle up to second-line right wing with Krejci and DeBrusk at the outset of the game, and it seemed to work well for the Black and Gold.

BLACK EYE: Jonathan Huberdeau is having a very good season for the Panthers, but he wasn’t able to bring out his “A” game for Florida against the Bruins. Huberdeau didn’t get a single shot on net in the 21:25 of ice time that he played. He finished with three giveaways and a minus-1 against the Bruins. He was part of the line set to contain the Krejci line, but instead allowed them to march right up the ice on DeBrusk’s first period scoring play. Huberdeau was also on ice in the third, when Florida coach Joel Quenneville pulled the goalie with more than two minutes to go, only for David Pastrnak to quickly notch an empty-netter that sealed the game. Not a good night for a very good player.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins weathered the storm in the third when the Panthers came hard after them and carved out a couple of goals to cut the lead to 3-2. Considering that the Bruins blew a 4-0 third period lead against the Panthers at home just a month ago, there was certainly some nervous, anxious moments, with the Bruins looking like they’d blow a three-goal lead in the third period this time. But the B’s stiffened after Jaro Halak gave up a soft goal on a Keith Yandle point shot to make it a one-goal game. They didn’t allow Florida to take advantage of any other breakdowns. Instead the B’s hung in there, patiently waiting until the Florida net opened up the winning scoring chance for them.

HONORABLE MENTION: Jake DeBrusk was at the heart of some of the criticism from Bruce Cassidy after the loss in Tampa when the second and third lines weren’t getting much of anything done. DeBrusk was also one of the players that responded in a big way this weekend by scoring the game’s first goal, a pretty nifty dangle through Florida defenders before beating Sergei Bobrovsky in tight close to the net. DeBrusk also fed David Krejci for his second period goal, finishing with five shot attempts and a couple blocked shots in 15:38 of ice time while posting a plus-2 rating. Perhaps just as important, DeBrusk was winning 50/50 battles for the puck and playing a competitive brand of hockey rather than doing fly-bys in a lot of areas while hunting the puck. If DeBrusk played with the same kind of speed, skill and tenacity on more nights, he’d be a difference-maker for the Bruins more often.

BY THE NUMBERS: 28 – The number of goals for David Pastrnak after collecting two scores against the Panthers, and putting himself in a position where he’s easily going to have 30 goals before the Christmas break.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I thought we did a really good job. Every line played well. We moved some guys around, but right up and down the lineup all 12 forwards, 6 [defensemen] and Jaroslav Halak were all really good.” –Bruce Cassidy to NESN when asked his assessment of the win that snapped the longest B’s losing streak (five games) since he took over as head coach.  

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The final piece of the NHL superstar puzzle for David Pastrnak lies just ahead

The final piece of the NHL superstar puzzle for David Pastrnak lies just ahead

David Pastrnak brought the smile and the energetic charisma during Friday night’s Skills Competition at NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis. Then on Saturday, Pastrnak brought the dazzling hockey skills to become only the fourth Bruins player in franchise history to win All-Star MVP with his four goals and six points in the 3-on-3 tourney at Enterprise Center.

It was all the more impressive as it was in a losing effort with his Atlantic Division squad falling to the Pacific Division in the final game.

The 23-year-old Pastrnak joins Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Bill Guerin in a very select Black and Gold group and adds another NHL milestone to a career that’s already building up with impressive accomplishments at such a precocious hockey age. Pastrnak was appropriately humble and thankful afterward while making a nod toward an accomplishment that will make for a nice trophy in his Pasta mancave someday.

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“It was a blast here,” said Pastrnak, who joked before the game about wearing the “C” on his jersey and how heavy it was going to feel for the first time. “I would expect someone from the winning team should be MVP, but if I was voted in by the fans I appreciate it. I appreciated the love. We were here this weekend for [the fans].”

Certainly, Pastrnak deserves accolades for the way he turned a wide-open 3-on-3 competition among the world’s best hockey players in his own personal skill showcase. He’s that good at making breathtaking offensive plays when he’s got the time and space to operate, create and execute what he wants to do in his beautiful hockey mind.

But as much as the All-Star MVP served as icing on the midseason cake for a player in Pastrnak that’s on a pace for 60 goals and 113 points this season, there is still a lot for the young Bruins right winger to prove moving forward. He was an All-Star last year too and on a pace for massive offensive numbers before an off-the-ice mishap after a team function led him to tear the ligaments in his thumb, and never allowed him to get back to that level when he returned ahead of the playoffs.

Pastrnak played just 15 games after the All-Star break and managed totals of nine goals and 19 points in 24 playoff games along with an even plus/minus rating, a stat line for the postseason that seemed okay all things considered. But he was a boom-or-bust player that ended up going scoreless in 12 of those 24 playoff games and finished a minus-7 in the Stanley Cup Final with just two goals and four points, and only one of those points coming during 5-on-5 play.

Pastrnak at times shied away from contact, he flailed at many of his one-timer chances that he would normally bury during the regular season and he seemed to pass up shooting opportunities that were there for him at times. The young winger admitted after the series that A) his thumb was bothering him still and B) he learned some lessons about toughing up mentally in situations where he was being challenged to elevate his game.

“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, back in June after the Cup Final was over in comments that bear repeating given how much of a target he’s going to be for opponents moving forward this season. “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. 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 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 all normal stuff for a developing NHL superstar and all the great ones go through it. But it’s time for Pastrnak to make that next step and be the dazzling, game-breaking force he was at NHL All-Star weekend when he’s playing against tough, physical opponents in the postseason that are determined to stop him.

The only way the Bruins are going to beat teams like Tampa or Washington the playoffs, in this humble hockey writer’s opinion, is if they get true scoring depth or if a player like Pastrnak goes supernova offensively against teams that are deeper, bigger and stronger than the Black and Gold lineup-wise.  

Pastrnak is the ultimate X-Factor given his skill set and his utter explosiveness, and his commanding lead in the goal-scoring department over players like Auston Matthews, Alex Ovechkin and Connor McDavid shows his ability to take over games. The true superstars do it when it matters most in the playoffs, and that is the true final hurdle for Pastrnak to surpass in a career that’s already portending hockey greatness at 23 years old.

The stage is set with the Bruins in first place and just 31 games remaining in the regular season, and now it’s up to Pasta to be Pasta at the most important time of year.

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David Pastrnak named MVP of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

David Pastrnak named MVP of 2020 NHL All-Star Game

The Atlantic Division may have come up just short in their quest to win their first NHL All-Star Game title since the league moved to a 3-on-3 tournament format for the big event. But David Pastrnak still took home one of the biggest accolades of the evening.

Pastrnak was named the All-Star Game MVP thanks to his strong performance on the ice.

Pastrnak edged out Leon Draisaitl, Matthew Tkachuk, and Anthony Duclair for the award which was voted on by NHL fans. Here's a look at the NHL's poll, courtesy of their official Twitter account.

Of course, a notable name is missing from that list: the San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl, who scored five total goals including the game-winner for the Pacific Division. Nonetheless, Pastrnak is going home as the MVP and become the first Bruins player to take home the award since Bill Guerin in 2001.

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Pastrnak had a hat trick in the Atlantic's first game, a win over the Metropolitan Division, and finished the night with four goals and two assists in the two games. Certainly, his performance was MVP worth even if there were a couple of other deserving candidates.

Hopefully, Pastrnak playing in the All-Star Game helps to keep him locked in moving forward. He has been one of the league's best scorers this year and is on pace to shatter his career-high in goals and points if he stays healthy.

The Bruins will need him to keep producing if they want to hold on to win the Atlantic Division.