Montreal Canadiens

Bruce Cassidy on David Pastrnak getting targeted: 'He just needs to be ready for it'

Bruce Cassidy on David Pastrnak getting targeted: 'He just needs to be ready for it'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Though the game was a couple of days ago, the talk around the Bruins on Tuesday was again about the targeting of the NHL’s leading scorer, David Pastrnak.

The 23-year-old Bruins sniper leads the NHL by a wide margin with 25 goals this season and is on pace to tie the franchise-record 76 goals scored by Bruins legend Phil Esposito. At this point, nobody has been able to contain him. 

Ottawa tried shadowing Pastrnak defensively last week, and both the Rangers and Canadiens last weekend employed the strategy of roughing up No. 88 in order to discourage him. It didn’t work out for either team as Pastrnak scored instrumental third-period goals against both the Blueshirts and the Habs, but it’s also a pattern that could become routine as Pastrnak keeps on scoring goals.

While the old-school hockey mentality would be to protect Pastrnak by going after opponents that take runs at him, that isn’t what happened on Sunday night against Montreal when Shea Weber, Jake Armia, Ben Chariot and Jeff Petry all took turns giving him the rough treatment. Instead, the Bruins pushed back a bit, scored a few goals and ending up winning the game in the best long-term payback for it.

Cassidy said again on Tuesday ahead of the home tilt against the Carolina Hurricanes that it’s going to be on Pastrnak to “be ready for it” rather than his teammates step up to protect him.

“When you’re a better player, that happens. He’ll just have to keep his head up a little more. There were a couple of against the Rangers and Montreal the other night that were borderline late. You hope that the league takes care of the players when those situations happen. But he just needs to be ready for it,” Cassidy said. “That’s just the way it is. When you’re a good player you just get targeted more. If you don’t want to get hit that often or get targeted, be an average player. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful, but that’s the way it goes.

“We circle guys on the other team’s lineup all the time in terms of slowing them down. How are we going to do it? Well, deny them the puck, good sticks and be physical. There’s a bunch of different ways you can do it, but clearly being physical was on Montreal’s agenda the other night. As long as it’s within the rules, that’s just hockey.”

Part of the reason Cassidy has to take this approach is the NHL continuing to legislate fighting and frontier justice out of the league and part of it is simply that the Bruins don’t have too many players on their roster capable of protecting Pastrnak as a deterrent.

Aside from 42-year-old Bruins captain Zdeno Chara and 35-year-old David Backes, just back from a concussion, there aren’t too many players that are going to put any fear into opposition looking to take liberties with the Bruins’ game-breaking force.

With that in mind, the B’s better that Pastrnak “being ready for it” also protects him from getting injured as a result of the increased punishment headed his way. Because it seems as if an injury is about the only thing capable of slowing Pastrnak down as he keeps on scoring at an unheard-of pace in today’s NHL.

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Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Canadiens

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USA TODAY Sports photo

Joe Haggerty's Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the Canadiens

GOLD STAR: He only played 9:04 of ice time, but the return of David Backes made a difference for the Boston Bruins. The 35-year-old was able to put a great one-timer shot on a picture-perfect David Krejci pass from the half-wall and roofed it past Carey Price for the powerplay game-winning goal in the third period. Never mind that it was Backes’ first goal of the season, but to have that kind of timing and ability to put everything on that shot after not playing for a month was pretty impressive stuff.

Backes finished with a goal, three shots on net, five shot attempts and a couple of hits while going 3-for-3 on face-offs and showed that he’s going to be able to help this Bruins team when healthy and armed with his good skating legs. It was simply a feel-good moment for Backes and the Bruins after enduring a rough month following his nasty collision with Scott Sabourin on the ice.

BLACK EYE: Somehow Claude Julien was complaining about it after the game, but Nick Cousins’ holding play on Torey Krug to set up the game-winner in the offensive was as dumb as it was the right call. Then to add insult to injury it was Cousins that played half-hearted defense in front of the net on the give-and-go play with Jake DeBrusk and Charlie Coyle to allow an insurance score for the Black and Gold.

Aside from those two hideous plays in the third period, Cousins with a minus-1 and one shot on net in 16:09 of completely non-descript play in the game. When it mattered, though, Cousins screwed up a couple of times and played a big role in the Habs imploding in the final 20 minutes of the game. But he certainly wasn’t alone on a sinking ship that’s lost eight games in a row.

TURNING POINT: Just a few minutes before David Pastrnak got the Bruins on the board in the third period, Brendan Gallagher was all alone on a breakaway after a disastrous turnover by Charlie McAvoy while Montreal held a 1-0 lead. Tuukka Rask got his body on the forehand bid from Gallagher to make certain it stayed a one-goal game for the Bruins and roughly three minutes later Pastrnak had scored and tied things up at one apiece.

It was part of a strong 28-save night for Rask overall, but it was a massive save at an important time in the game that helped set up three straight goals for the B’s in the third period to take the two points away from the Habs.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak now has 25 goals on Dec. 1, which is a pretty thing in and of itself. But it’s also how he scored flying up the wing and zinging one past Carey Price from the face-off dot off the rush and then kick-starting the B’s offense with his game-breaking ability. Once Pastrnak scored it seemed like the B’s got things into gear and the rest of the offense followed.

Perhaps most impressive of all, though, was No. 88 continuing to play hard even as big-bodied Habs players like Joel Armia and Shea Weber were taking big-time physical shots at him. It’s clear as he continues to score that other teams are going to target him physically and they did on Sunday night. But Pastrnak played through it, scored his goal as payback in the third period and finished with six shot attempts and a couple of hits in 20:37 of ice time.

BY THE NUMBERS: 15 – the number of consecutive games on home ice with a point to start the season for the Bruins. The B’s are 11-0-4 at TD Garden this season in the best streak in franchise history since they started the year 19-0-2 all the way back in 1973-74.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “I think you see it on my face. That was elation.” –David Backes on scoring the game-winning goal for the Bruins in the third period after sitting out the previous 13 games with a concussion.

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NHL Highlights: Bruins offense wakes up in third to defeat Canadiens, 3-1

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AP Photo

NHL Highlights: Bruins offense wakes up in third to defeat Canadiens, 3-1

FINAL SCORE: Bruins 3, Canadiens 1

IN BRIEF: The Bruins couldn't get on the board through the first two periods, but they woke up in the third with goals from David Pastrnak, David Backes and Jake DeBrusk to earn another win over the Canadiens. The victory extends Boston's win streak to seven games.

BRUINS RECORD: 19-3-5 (43 points)

HIGHLIGHTS

ARMIA PUTS HABS ON THE BOARD FIRST

ARMIA DECKS PASTRNAK

GETTING CHIPPY

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR

RASK COMES UP BIG ON THE BREAKAWAY

PASTA TIES IT WITH GOAL #25

BACKES GIVES BRUINS THE LEAD

DEBRUSK ADDS ONE MORE

UP NEXT:
Vs. Hurricanes, Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET
Vs. Blackhawks, Thursday at 7 p.m. ET

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