Pavel Zacha has bounced around a bit this season; from center to wing back to center and from line to line. Lately, he’s been getting the bounces.
The second-year Bruin had goals in back-to-back games before being shut out in the club’s 3-0 loss to the Capitals Saturday at TD Garden, and his newly formed line, with David Pastrnak on the right and James van Riemsdyk on the left, had piled up 18 points in the previous five games.
It’s a welcome surge for Zacha, whose production fell off with just two tallies between Dec. 31 and Jan. 27.
A nine-year veteran, Zacha makes it a point not to let a lack of offensive production seep into other areas of his game.
“I think the points weren’t where I wanted to be, but I also think defensively I felt good. So, I think I just had to keep working,” he said. “I know I’m playing with great players; they’re going to give me the opportunities to score goals or make plays. I just have to use the opportunities that I get playing the top minutes and the power play and just keep getting better.”
He has consistently been among the Bruins’ top penalty killers and forecheckers throughout the season.
“If I’m not scoring goals at the time, how else can I help the team? And that’s, I think, my defensive game, penalty kill and stuff like that,” Zacha said. “That’s something that I can kind of start from when things are not going that great.”
Although Zacha exudes a calm, quiet demeanor, coach Jim Montgomery said there is a fire burning in him and the dearth of scoring likely weighed on his center.
“Even though outwardly he comes across as a very composed person, I think inwardly he puts a lot of pressure on himself,” Montgomery said. “When you are that kind of person, when things aren’t going well, you force more instead of relaxing. I think playing with Pasta helps that, because Pasta is pretty relaxed.”
Zacha’s goal in Thursday’s 4-0 win over the Canucks was a thing of beauty, starting with van Riemsdyk’s feathery airborne backhand pass that landed on his center’s stick. Zacha blazed down the slot and wristed one past Thatcher Demko.
“I saw that [van Riemsdyk] looked at me when I was skating in the middle, so I just tried to skate fast to beat the guys and then basically [the defense] left me and I knew that JVR can make those plays,” said Zacha. “But the pass that he made was unbelievable and the players that I play with can make those plays so it was a great pass for him and made it easier for me to be on a breakaway.”
Richard gets his chance
As expected, Anthony Richard made his season debut, chugging on the fourth line with Jesper Boqvist and Danton Heinen.
Richard’s speed and physicality were evident across his 16 shifts and 10:38 of ice time.
He landed Boston’s first shot on net and was relentless on the forecheck, delivering six hits, tops among Boston’s forwards.
“I thought he was one of the players that had jump and had tenacity on pucks. It’s too bad that it didn’t get us to playing our game so we could see him [more],” said Montgomery. “He had our best scoring or only scoring chance, maybe the first two periods, five on five. So, I guess that was a bright spot.”
Family reunion on hold
There was no van Riemsdyk family reunion after James’s brother, Capitals defenseman Trevor, was scratched with an illness ... Van Riemsdyk’s 25 assists are fourth on the Bruins, trailing Pastrnak (42), Charlie Coyle (27), and Charlie McAvoy (26) ... The Capitals were without Evgeny Kuznetsov, who entered the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program. He has six goals and 17 points in 43 games ... It was the 178th meeting between the franchises with the Bruins holding an 86-57-21-14 edge ... On Feb. 10, 1942, the Bruins bid a postgame farewell to the famous Kraut Line (Milt Schmidt, Bobby Bauer, and Woody Dumart) as the trio left to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II ... The Bruins next play Tuesday when they host the Lightning in what should be the 1,000th game of captain Brad Marchand’s career .... Song of the day: “[I Can’t No] Satisfaction,” by the Rolling Stones.