The Evolution of Bruins David Pastrnak

Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak earned lofty praise from coach Claude Julien after scoring the game winning goal in overtime versus Florida. (Photo: nhl.com)

One of history’s great poets John Donne wrote in his work titled, Devotions (published in 1624), “No man is an island.” That may be true but, for many, it is hard to believe that the 2016-2017 edition of the Boston Bruins would not be exceeding expectations without one, David Pastrnak.

After scoring the game-winning goal in overtime versus the Florida Panthers Monday night, Pastrnak led Boston with 15 goals in 21 games this season, which is already a career-high for the native of Havirov, Czech Republic.

Pastrnak has added six assists to accompany his goal total for 21 points placing him second to Brad Marchand’s team-leading 22 points.

The 15 goals place him third among all NHL players. Pastrnak trails Patrik Laine, the Winnipeg Jets rookie phenom, by one goal. Sidney Crosby, long-regarded by most as the best player on the planet, is first in goals with 17 this season.

In the overall points race, the man they call Pasta ranks 26th in the NHL.

If there is any question as to his value to his team, Boston has a 10-6-0 record in games in which Pastrnak records a goal or an assist.

Pastrnak’s coach, Claude Julien, is very pleased with Pastrnak’s development and had some lofty praise for his young star.

“Well, he’s coming into his own I think,” Julien said. “There’s no doubt about that. Confidence-wise, it’s at its highest right now and rightfully so. I think he’s been our best forward since the beginning of the year. So, no doubt it’s nice to see him growing the way he is right now.”

The confidence, which Julien referred to, has evolved through Pastrnak’s maturation and watching the game’s best players, not only in NHL games but in the World Cup of Hockey as well.

“Obviously when you’re playing with the best players in the world, which (teaches) you as well, even on my team – in Czech (Republic) – we play with guys who you usually play against,” Pastrnak said. “So, it was nice to see them in the other way, like you play against guys like (Team) Canada which is 22 guys of stars, and you’re kind of sitting on the bench and just watching their shifts on the ice and it doesn’t matter if the D (defensemen) has the puck or the forwards, you see something that you could use and learn from. So, obviously, it helped me a lot.”

Since returning from the World Cup, his linemates have also provided a big assist, figuratively and literally, in his continued growth.

“It’s our 26th or 27th game in the season and all games I play beside Bergy (Patrice Bergeron) and Marchy (Brad Marchand) and those two guys – it’s such a pleasure to play and learning a bunch of stuff – learning every single shift and they talk to me, tell me what to do, and then I guess (I’m) trying to listen and we have a lot of guys here who have been around the League for a long time, so they (are) helping us young guys and it’s really helpful,” Pastrnak said.

Despite the myth that Julien does not develop young players, Pastrnak is also appreciative of the Bruins coaching staff.

“The coaches did a great job and if it’s Joe (Sacco) or Claude (Julien) since I got here, but even Pando (Jay Pandolfo) when I was – Pando and Butch (Bruce Cassidy) – when I was in Providence, you know, I’ve been around those guys and they help me work and get better every day and that’s what I’m trying to do,” the 20-year-old forward said.

Not only are his coaches and fans enjoying watching Pastrnak evolve into an NHL star, his teammates are very happy to see it also.

“Yeah. It’s nice to see,” Bruins captain Zdeno Chara said when asked about the youngster. “He’s growing. He’s made big steps since last year and he’s playing with a lot of confidence. I think it obviously helps to have guys like Patrice (Bergeron) and Brad (Marchand) on the same line. You see that, when he has the puck, he’s a dangerous player. When he’s skating and moving his feet, he’s going to make something happen.”

“I think that the more you’re around the guys and the same systems, either you’re going to figure it out and get it, and grow as a player and as a person, or you don’t and he seems to be understanding that for a player to be effective and be accountable in this League, you have to play a certain way. I think that he’s been challenged off the ice since a very young age to be responsible and accountable and he’s capable of that so it’s very nice to see that he’s getting rewarded and getting a lot of positive compliments.”

David Backes, who has seen his share of young players rise to stardom during his ten-year NHL career, has been impressed with Pastrnak’s skill set and can empathize with some opponents.

“He’s got the skills, the confidence,” Backes observed. “So he’s been huge for us, he’s been finding those areas and with his finish, his hands, his confidence, I wouldn’t want to be a goalie in there.”

Bruins goaltender, Tuukka Rask, went on to explain what makes Pastrnak a scoring threat every time he has the puck on his stick.

I think the biggest challenge with him is when he’s got the speed going, and he can keep the puck moving with the same speed,” Rask said. “It’s very tough to match that, so a lot times you get caught flat-footed as a goalie, but he’s feeling it, and that’s good for us. But he’s very creative, and obviously he’s been a talent, young talent, for many, many years, and he’s finally taken the last step and kind of like making a little name for himself.”

While it is true that no man is an island, it is becoming increasingly clear that Boston is becoming David Pastrnak’s island and the inhabitants are enjoying the view.   

Follow ESPN New Hampshire’s NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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