David Pastrnak’s trademark move, at least until Tuesday night, Oct. 22, has been his uncanny and accurate one-time slapper, a shot he loves to unload from his spot parked at the left wing faceoff dot during the power play. It’s a hard shot, and in NHL terms, it’s also light, which means it flies off his stick blade.
Some shooters release the puck and it leaves their stick heavier than a curling stone. Pastrnak’s one-timers fly off faster than dawn’s first ray of sunshine cutting through a black sky over Mount Desert Island.
Then there’s the move he made Tuesday night at TD Garden with 2:45 left in the first period. The one-timer no doubt will remain the 23-year-old’s signature shot, but his sleight-of-puck-between-the-legs move for his league-leading 10th goal of the season was a Pasta piece de resistance (chef’s kiss here), the highlight of the Bruins’ 4-2 win over the Leafs.
“Nothing surprises me with him anymore,” said linemate Brad Marchand, who threw the short pass that set up Pastrnak’s devilish move. “He has the ability to do anything.”
The goal, which also delivered Pastrnak’s 300th career point, was the result of the Czech right winger collecting the puck from his spot stationed roughly a stick length off the net’s left post. He had his back to Leafs tender Michael Hutchinson, as if working the low post in the NBA, and received Marchand’s dish on his forehand.
“I don’t appear in that spot very often,” he said. “So it’s not something I’ve tried on our goalies in practice. But before practice, when you are skating around and the net’s empty, that’s when you try it.”
Marchand, who delivered the feed from the top edge of the left wing circle, wasn’t necessarily expecting the shot that followed. But he has played long enough now with Pastrnak that he had a pretty good idea what was coming. Bank robbers go to banks for a reason. True, too, of goal scorers.
“When he gets the puck that close to the net,” said Marchand, “he’s going there.”
And he went there, in style.
Backing in butt-first toward the crease, Pastrnak, who no doubt has “Sweet Georgia Brown” on his playlist, scooped the puck through his own legs and then finished off the play, his stick still between his legs, with a doorstep forehander that squeezed through Hutchinson for the 1-0 lead.
If the NHL sold a magic kit for the holidays, Pastrnak would be the cover boy. Maybe a deck of cards, a handkerchief, handcuffs, and tiny baton with the NHL shield logo. A top hat with a rabbit inside (or not). A stick, a puck, and pair of magician’s hands that makes the little rubber biscuit disappear (whoosh!) into the net. Hey, how’d that happen?
The referees even appeared to be caught unaware by Pastrnak’s move. As one of the guys in stripes leaned in from the back of the cage to see if the puck was there, Pastrnak spared the officials any sleuthing. He pointed toward the net emphatically, two or three times, the goal scorer calling the goal. Pastrnak’s debut as an on-ice official.
“Yeah, I don’t know . . . not very happy about that celly [celebration],” said Pastrnak, sounding a bit sheepish about it after the win. “I’m going to go for some lessons from Jake DeBrusk.”
Magic and celebration aside, the Bruins today have the league’s No. 1 goal scorer, as well as the NHL’s most prolific trio, with Marchand and Pastrnak riding on Patrice Bergeron’s wings. The line finished 2-2—4 and, granted only three weeks into the new season, is on a pace for 355 points.
Ridiculous, right? No line can keep up that kind of production in today’s game. While most likely true, let’s not forget the same threesome finished last season with 260 points, paced by Marchand’s first time at 100 points. What we may be witnessing here is a carry through, with the supercharged, sleight-of-handed Pastrnak (now 10-7—17) leading the way.
At some point, they’ll cool off. Right? Surely.
Maybe not. Not if Pastrnak remains awash in goals, with the joy of a bull elephant rollicking and splashing in a mud bath.
“Everything catches my eye with him lately,” said coach Bruce Cassidy, his club now 6-1-2 and awaiting Saturday’s rematch with the Cup-defending Blues at the Garden. “He’s just on it. He’s on pucks. He’s strong. His conditioning seems great. He’s playing a lot of hard minutes against good players every night. He’s making plays. He’s getting his shot off. He fought it a little in the playoffs. I think that was rust. He’s spot on this year.”
It’s the hottest start for a Bruin, for goals scored from the start of a season, dating to when Charlie Simmer (ex-of LA’s Triple Crown Line) banged home 10 here in the first seven games of 1985-86. Simmer, 31, finished with but 36 goals and 60 points.
Pastrnak now has 142 career goals in 329 regular-season games. Picked 25th in the 2014 draft, he is the top goal scorer in that draft, with 11 more goals than Edmonton’s Leon Draisaitl and 37 more than Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson.
He is confident, bold, and gaining momentum.
“There’s time during the year when pucks bounce against you and there are times when they bounce for you,” said Marchand, no stranger to the results that a goal scorer sees with confidence. “Pucks are bounding his way. He has the ability to make those high-end plays, puts himself in position to capitalize — but when you are feeling it, you feel like you can try anything and it’s going to work.”
For Pasta, it’s one of the those times. He is living his Presto! Moment.