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This isn’t the best time for David Pastrnak to be in a slump

The Bruins’ David Pastrnak got special attention from Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki.JOHN TLUMACKI/GLOBE STAFF

The Bruins dropped back-to-back games to Ottawa and Toronto. They lost by one goal to the Senators on Tuesday, 3-2. The Bruins essentially lost by one to the Maple Leafs on Monday, striking two empty-netters for Toronto and a garbage-time response by Dominic Moore.

David Pastrnak could have made a difference in both games.

The Bruins have had few complaints about their dynamic right wing. The 20-year-old was cruising on a career-best 11-game scoring streak before the two latest losses.

But Pastrnak has submitted zeros in the last two games. He landed three pucks on Craig Anderson Tuesday. The night before, Pastrnak launched two shots on Frederik Andersen.


Both goalies made game-changing saves on other chances. Not so on Pastrnak. The volume and quality of Pastrnak’s sniffs declined in the two games in which the Bruins could not afford a dropoff from their trigger-happy sniper.

“I’ve got to be better, do more plays, and get better,” Pastrnak said. “Got to be better.”

Against Toronto, Pastrnak played on the second line with Matt Beleskey and David Krejci. The line went missing. Beleskey recorded one shot. Krejci had none.

Against Ottawa, when the Senators pulled ahead by one goal in the third, coach Bruce Cassidy promoted Pastrnak to the first line alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. It has been one of Cassidy’s go-to moves, partly because the three have been dominant at chasing pucks and propelling them at opposing goalies.

On Tuesday, Cassidy had an additional reason for replacing David Backes with Pastrnak: to get his 20-year-old back to his point-producing self.

“Some of that is getting Pasta going,” Cassidy said. “Bergy and Marsh have really been on the puck and gotten pucks back. Whoever’s played with them has found some opportunities to score.”

A quiet two games is not unfamiliar ice for Pastrnak. He went 17 straight games without a goal in December and January. For the most part, No. 88 still had good looks and played well with Marchand and Bergeron during his goal-scoring drought.


In comparison, a two-game dip is just a blip. But Pastrnak played with little presence against the Leafs, a rarity for a player who usually has no trouble creating offense. He was a tick better against the Senators. But by the end, when he smacked the puck the length of the rink in frustration, then jostled with some of the Senators, Pastrnak looked very much like a kettle ready to boil over.

“It’s part of hockey,” Pastrnak said of raised tempers. “Those things are going to happen.”

The blueprint to defend Pastrnak, as it is with all skilled players, is to exercise heavy muscle-flexing. On seemingly every other shift, Pastrnak found hard-nosed defenseman Mark Borowiecki occupying part of his jersey. In the third, Borowiecki tagged Pastrnak with a neutral-zone hit that caused the right wing to go skittering to the ice. Pastrnak retaliated with a slash to Borowiecki’s leg.

Just a few years back, such snarl on Borowiecki’s part would not have been tolerated. Strongmen would have jumped to Pastrnak’s aid to notify Borowiecki he could lose the few teeth remaining in his gums. Early in the first, Zdeno Chara had an extended up-close conversation with Borowiecki, most likely conveying that very message.

These days, however, in the peace-and-love NHL, fists cannot be applied in such situations. Once-protected players such as Pastrnak can no longer wait for a brutish teammate to remove a roughneck such as Borowiecki from his perimeter. It is up to Pastrnak to create his own breathing room by responding with his own physicality — or better yet, by putting pucks in nets.


The latter has not come easy for the natural scorer. In the third, when the Bruins could have tied the game with a power-play goal, Pastrnak set up at the left circle. As Marchand stickhandled down low on the opposite side, Pastrnak directed traffic with his stick. Following passes up the formation, Ryan Spooner was in feeding position to find Pastrnak with his stick raised for his signature one-timer. But Pastrnak couldn’t hammer the puck flush and sent a dribbler wide.

During six-on-five play, Marchand spotted Pastrnak sneaking backdoor. But Pastrnak couldn’t handle Marchand’s seam pass. Later, Pastrnak was on the passing end, but Erik Karlsson hit the deck and cleared the puck with his right hand.

“It looks like the puck’s not cooperating with him. It happens to goal scorers,” Cassidy said. “He’s just going to have to play through it. He did earlier this year. Clearly, we don’t want it to be extended as it was then. I don’t think it will be. He’s a more mature player and person. But he’ll have to find his way through it. Sometimes you need to score an ugly goal — get to the net, get a greasy one — to get out of those things. We’ll see how it plays out. He’s got to keep pushing. We need him. We’re relying on him to score. He’s not the only guy. But we’re relying on him.”


Two games without a goal doesn’t necessarily qualify as a slump. Jimmy Hayes has not found the back of the net since Dec. 18. Frank Vatrano’s bid for top-six ice time is blunted by his lack of goals in the last 11 games.

But for a 31-goal man such as Pastrnak, two straight nothings is a deviation. Especially when it’s against a team pushing from behind and a club sprinting for separation.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com.