David Pastrnak is one of the NHL’s premier goal scorers. On Tuesday, the Bruins winger proved that even a superior marksman can be off-target, confirming that his extended stay in quarantine was a product of his misfiring around the league’s return-to-play protocols.
“I take full responsibility for my actions,” said the Bruins’ 48-goal scorer, making his first public comments since early March. “I am sorry.”
Pastrnak, as reported here July 17, erred when he and Bruins teammate Ondrej Kase skated a number of days earlier in the month with a collection of amateur and minor pro players at a Malden rink.
The ad hoc hockey sessions took place while a collection of Pastrnak’s Black-and-Gold teammates practiced in Brighton amid the NHL’s strict return-to-play protocols — the Malden sessions occurring prior to the expiration of Pastrnak’s mandatory 14-day quarantine following his return from Czechia. He and Kase obviously were hoping to have their legs ready for their first official team practice July 16, post-quarantine.
But it’s clear now the Bruins ultimately learned that both Pastrnak and Kase had violated the Phase 2 protocol with their Malden practices and therefore had to reenter quarantine. The mistake ultimately prohibited them from participating in the full two weeks of the official camp.
“Yeah, that’s correct, you said it right,” said Pastrnak Tuesday, when asked during a Zoom meeting if it was the Malden workouts that forced him into the added quarantine. “So you said it right. You said it even better.”
The Bruins at the time chose to make no comment about Pastrnak’s involvement in the Malden practices, photos of which were splashed across social media.
“First of all, I was never sick, so I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Pastrnak said. “Obviously, it was a tough bounce there. And unfortunately what happened [is] what happened and I had to miss some times.
“Obviously, the protocol is to stay in quarantine and unfortunately I had to be locked down at home for a while. There is nothing I can control.”
After taking full responsibility for the miscue and saying he was sorry, Pastrnak added, “I am finally back and feel good out there and it’s good to be back with the boys.
“To be honest, it’s been tough. Technically, 28 days in quarantine. The toughest part about it was that I was healthy the whole time in quarantine. But at the same time, I still couldn’t do anything, you know, so … yeah, it is really tough and frustrating at the same time. A really long month.”
Pastrnak, whose 48 goals tied Washington’s Alex Ovechkin for the league lead, rejoined the club for Monday’s practice in Toronto and again was part of the group Tuesday, the team’s second workout in the NHL hub city.
“I thought he looked great,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, who reunited his sharpshooter with regular linemates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. “He had a lot of energy, was flying around. I thought it rubbed off on his linemates.
“Shot looked good. A couple of plays in tight, he fumbled the puck. Timing and execution, they’ve all been going through that a little bit, or have the first week. So that’s to be expected. I’m sure he’ll pick that up quick.”
The Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak trio finished the season with 238 points across 70 games, with the Czech right winger leading the club in goals and points (48-47—95). It was the first time in his six-year career that he led the team in points.
A healthy Pastrnak, if firing at full efficiency, would give the Bruins a chance to repeat as Stanley Cup finalists for the first time since their back-to-back visits in 1977 and ’78.
“All in all, I’d give him an excellent grade,” said Cassidy. “He seemed very excited to be there and happy to be with his teammates again.”
Cassidy said he would use the Tuesday and Wednesday practices to assess whether or not to play Pastrnak in the exhibition game Thursday night vs. the Blue Jackets in Toronto. The next game after that will be the first in a three-part round-robin series, Sunday vs. the Flyers.
“I felt great,” said Pastrnak. “I was actually surprised. I love the game and I will always be up to playing. It’s obviously not up to me.
“Right now I am just focusing to feel better every day. I am for sure up for it and we’ll see Thursday.”
Team captain Zdeno Chara, held out of Monday’s workout because of a delay in testing results, was a full go for Tuesday’s practice. However, Nick Ritchie missed his fifth straight session. The fact that he was allowed across the border would indicate that his absence is not related to COVID testing, but rather an injury … Expected to join the team in Toronto at some point, Kase first will have to undergo a four-day quarantine there before being allowed to enter practices or games. The fact that he was held back in Toronto could be an indication that he tested COVID-positive during his Boston quarantine and must string together a sufficient number of negative tests before being allowed across the border … Cassidy said he hasn’t made up his mind that Jeremy Lauzon will pair with Matt Grzelcyk on the No. 3 defense unit and noted that both John Moore and Connor Clifton have a chance of landing the spot on the right side. But he was clear about how much he likes Lauzon’s game, and even more effusive about Grzelcyk’s play. “The trust issue with Gryz and his teammates and myself and the staff is tremendous,” said Cassidy. “I know what I’m going to get out of Gryz every night. His game has continued to grow, so that’s a positive. Good for the individual and the team.”
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.