|01.15.15 at 7:57 pm ET|
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli announced Thursday night that the team intends to keep rookie forward David Pastrnak on the NHL roster and play him for a 10th NHL game, at which point this season will officially become the first of the 18-year-old’s three-year entry level contract.
The Bruins can still send Pastrnak down and up between Providence and Boston going forward this season, as burning the first year one’s entry level does not require a team to keep the player on its NHL roster. The incentive for the Bruins to have not kept Pastrnak in the NHL for 10 games was that his three-year window would have slid ahead to begin next year, meaning he would be up for a new contract as a restricted free agent after the 2017-18 season rather than after the 2016-17 season, the latter of which will now be the case.
Chiarelli credited Pastrnak’s work with Providence both at the beginning of the season and following his November/December callup — which Chiarelli said was dominant — as a major reason as to why the Bruins felt he was ready for the NHL.
“He went down there and he did what we told him to do, which was play without the puck, play heavier, play on the wall, the defensive wall, offensive battles,” Chiarelli said. “Then he came up here and played in the West Coast trip and I think he got his feet wet a little bit, went back down and dominated down there again. I think in making this decision, we really scrutinized his play in Providence and we felt that he was able to play and excel at that level with the proper physicality for him and against the proper physicality.
“He’s going to be up here and we’re happy to make that decision and we’re going to continue to look at it as a development piece, which means that, as we’ve done before with some of the younger players, it doesn’t mean you’re in the lineup all the time. There may be points in time when his play dips a little bit and we may sit him down for a game or two here or there, but I think the important thing to take away from this is that he’s going to be up with the big team, practice with the team, and hopefully play on a regular basis.”
Thursday night’s game against the Rangers, in which Pastrnak remained on the Bruins’ first line with David Krejci and Milan Lucic and was a plus-1 in Boston’s victory, marked Pastrnak’s ninth NHL game.
In his brief NHL career, Pastrnak has four goals and one assist, with his goals coming in back-to-back two-goal performances Saturday and Tuesday. Pastrnak was first recalled on Nov. 23 and made his NHL debut the next night against Pittsburgh. The right wing stayed up with Boston for a six-game stretch in which he played five games and was a healthy scratch in another.
After the game, Krejci expressed excitement for both Pastrnak and himself, quipping, “I have a Czech buddy.” He won’t have a Czech roommate, however, as the Bruins will make other living arrangements for the 18-year-old. Teenage players often live with veteran players in their first years, as Patrice Bergeron did with Martin Lapointe and Dougie Hamilton did with Adam McQuaid.
Boston chose Pastrnak with the 25th overall pick of the first round last June and kept him in North America with the Providence Bruins rather than sending him back to Sweden, where he’d played the previous two seasons. After sending him down in December, the B’s loaned him to the Czech National Team for the World Junior Championships and sent him to Providence for a one-game pit stop before bringing him up to the NHL club on Jan. 6.
Pastrnak has been the youngest player at both the AHL and NHL levels this season. In 24 AHL games, Pastrnak has 10 goals and 17 assists for 27 points.
|01.15.15 at 2:05 pm ET|
NBC Sports NHL analyst Pierre McGuire made his weekly appearance Thursday on Middays with MFB to discuss the Bruins’ recent hot streak and to talk about rookie forward David Pastrnak. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
The Bruins have won four games in a row and are starting to get into a nice rhythm. Even with their struggles early on, McGuire remained optimistic, so their turnaround isn’t much of a surprise to him.
“I really like the way the coaching staff has developed the roles for the players, so you’re seeing now [Carl] Soderberg evolve into the role I think they had envisioned for him,” McGuire said. “I think Gregory Campbell is getting into the role they envisioned for him. Daniel Paille same thing. Milan [Lucic] has really picked up the pace of his game physically. Getting [Zdeno] Chara back, he seems to be getting a little more comfortable with the timing issues that he might have had earlier. That helps you a lot. That puts players deeper on the depth chart in terms of minutes played, so I do.
“It is pretty much the way I envisioned this team. I still think it’s an unbelievably difficult team to play against. They are rounding into form.”
One of the players who has stepped up of late has been Pastrnak, as he has put up four goals in two games. He also thrived at the World Junior tournament earlier last month, scoring a goal and two assists in five games. McGuire says playing in that tournament can help a player prove he can play at the next level. He also doesn’t believe for a second the Bruins would send him down to Providence, thus keeping a year on his entry-level contract for playing less than 10 games in the NHL.
“I’ve been telling you about this player for a little while now, and when you can dominate a World Junior like he did and he is playing on a team from the Czech Republic that wasn’t very good and he was still dominant, that tells you he’s ready to play in the National Hockey League,” said McGuire. “I know that is a foreign concept for a lot of people to understand — I’ve been around that tournament for 20 years and I’ve watched the very best players come out of that and I’ve seen some kids that actually grew over the course of that tournament and that propelled them to being NHL players. That is one tournament, if you can dominant it best-on-best in your own peer group, you’re ready to play at the next level.
“I would be absolutely flabbergasted and shocked if he were set back [to Providence].”
|01.15.15 at 12:00 pm ET|
After missing Wenesday’s practice, Brad Marchand took part in Thursday’s morning skate as the Bruins prepared to host the Rangers.
Thursday will be Pastrnak’s ninth NHL game, meaning it could be his last if the Bruins opt against burning the first year of his entry level contract. That would be silly, of course, but the Bruins have yet to announce their intentions to keep the offensively gifted 18-year-old.
Based on morning skate, Boston’s lineup for Thursday night is as follows:
The Bruins, riding a season-best four-game winning streak, will face a red-hot Rangers team. Though the Rangers coming off a 3-0 loss to the Eastern Conference-leading Islanders, they have won 13 of their last 15 games and, with 52 points on the season, have as many points as the Bruins do with four games in hand. The B’s and Rangers both possess wild card spots in the Eastern Conference entering Thursday night’s game.
The Rangers will start backup goaltender Cam Talbot. The 27-year-old made 12 saves Tuesday night against the Islanders in a scoreless third period after entering in relief of Henrik Lundqvist.
|01.14.15 at 6:11 pm ET|
With David Pastrnak, the Bruins’ first line will be able to score goals. The question is how many it will give up.
Given that Pastrnak, though clearly offensively gifted, is the youngest player in the NHL, it’s only fair to question how Krejci and Milan Lucic‘s line will do in the plus-minus department when playing against other teams’ top players. The line did not allow a goal in its first game together on Tuesday (really half a game, as they were united midway through the second), but it did score three. Claude Julien will take that any day of the week.
Yet the cautionary tale of the Tyler Seguin Experiment exists, as Pastrnak isn’t the first highly talented youngster to see time in the spot that has typically reserved for veteran power forwards (Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla) over the years.
When Horton was out for the season with a concussion in March of 2012, Julien went for broke offensively by sticking the then-20-year-old Seguin with Lucic and Krejci. They produced at over a goal-per-game clip, but gave up 10 goals before Julien separated them. When the B’s were desperate for offense in Game 7 of the first round in 2013, Julien again put Seguin with Krejci and Lucic, only to see them allow goals on their first two shifts.
In case you haven’t noticed by now, Julien isn’t comfortable with lines that give up more goals than they score (insert then-why-does-he-ever-play-the-fourth-line quip here), so if he plays a trio together, he does so because he thinks it can do more good on the scoreboard than damage.
As such, it was interesting to see that, after the Lightning scored to make it a one-goal game Tuesday night, Julien kept Pastrnak with Krejci and Lucic for the top line’s next shift.
Or, put it this way: With the Bruins defending a one-goal lead in a game they had to win against the division leaders, Julien put the youngest player in the league — one whose defense seemed to be one of the things he’d need to improve in order to make the NHL — on the ice against Steven Stamkos and the Bruins lived to tell about it.
“This is not a time to test guys,” Julien said Wednesday of his decision to play Pastrnak in such an important spot. “If he was out there, it was because I felt comfortable with him.”
Julien said that he considers such decisions with young players to be ‘calculated chances.’ He noted Pastrnak’s improvement getting pucks out along the wall in his defensive zone (Julien makes a good point; Pastrnak had some struggles there in his first five game stint with the B’s) and sound decision-making he’d seen from the rookie all night that made him confident that Pastrnak would not be defensive liability in the game’s most crucial minutes.
“I think for a player to develop, when you see the right things on certain nights, you’ve got to allow that player to have an opportunity,” he said. “That’s how you gain that kind of experience in those situations. Throughout the game, if you’ve seen situations where he’s kind of struggled and had some tough situations come up, you try to keep him away from that. It’s up to me to stay on top of the player and the game itself and see whether he’s earned it.”
Both Krejci and Lucic have given their endorsements to Pastrnak; it would be rather difficult to do given that he’s scored four goals over his last two games. Yet while Lucic acknowledged that the trio must stick to the team’s system to avoid suffering the same score-a-goal, allow-two-goals fate that they did in the Seguin days, Krejci said that Pastrnak, who hopes to become a strong two-way player like Krejci, will become better and better at applying his defensive learnings as he gains experience.
“It’s going to happen that we’re going to get scored on, that’s for sure, but we have to try to minimize the mistakes,” Krejci said. “On the other hand, he knows what to do defensively, but he has just been here a small amount of games and sometimes in a situation, he has to think twice of what do, and in that split second, something can go wrong. It will come with games played and I’m sure he’ll be fine.”
|01.14.15 at 2:53 pm ET|
NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday to talk about Bruins rookie forward David Pastrnak’s performance as well as the team’s recent success overall. To hear the interview, go to the MFB audio on demand page.
As the story goes with most first-year players in the NHL, a team has to make a decision about an entry-level player’s future before he’s played his 10th game of the season or a year will be burned off of his entry level contract. With Pastrnak due to make his ninth start on Thursday night after recording four goals in his last two games, it’s not hard to understand why most everyone is waiting with bated breath for the front office’s verdict.
“It’s pretty obvious from where we sit I think, no question about it,” Brickley said. “The question was, ‘Can this kid help us make the playoffs?’ Because when your team’s in a playoff spot, sure there’s still plenty of games left, but it’s so difficult to climb over teams and amass points in this league when you have so many three-point games. It’s tough to make up ground once you fall too far behind. But that being said, because the Bruins are amassing points, and they are getting some traction in the standings, it’s just about getting into the playoffs.
“The question becomes, Bruins management, can they go out and make a deal to fill whatever holes they see that they have?” he continued, adding, “Or, can Pastrnak come in and not only give you energy, but be productive as an 18-year-old on a fairly consistent basis so that you don’t have to go out and make that deal.
“You’re hoping that this injection of energy is really contagious,” Brickley said of the rookie.
Brickley also stressed that the experience Pastrnak has gotten over the last month in terms of his brief stint with the Bruins in addition to his success in the American Hockey League and at the IIHF World Junior Championship has done “a world of good for him.” He has 27 points in 24 games in the AHL and tallied a goal and six assists in five contests at World Juniors.
“The confidence becomes more accelerated, you get an opportunity to come back, you get a better understanding of the game,” Brickley said. “You paid attention when you were here the first time, and then you’re encouraged to play your game by the coaching staff and by the players in the room to be as creative as you want from the blue line in, and … pay attention to the Patrice Bergerons of the world and know what you’re supposed to do when you don’t have the puck, and when you do, do what you do best.”
It also helps that his breakout play has “coincided with the return and the better play of some of the core players,” Brickley added, citing Zdeno Chara and Adam McQuaid’s return to form spreading the load on defense.
“Now guys are playing the minutes that they’re supposed to play,” he said.
He also mentioned that Krejci coming back has an affect on the offense as well, noting that the center playing well makes his winger Milan Lucic a better player. After adding Pastrnak to that line then, Brickley said, “It’s no wonder the Bruins have won four in a row.”
|01.14.15 at 1:59 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — David Pastrnak is just one of the reasons the Bruins are starting to win again. His center being healthy enough to stick in the lineup and perform is among the biggest.
After going in and out of the lineup with lower-body injuries and missing a total of 20 games, Krejci has been back in Boston’s lineup for nearly a month. Though he has since hit his stride (nine points in his last eight games) and has established quick chemistry with Pastrnak, Krejci told WEEI.com Wednesday that his injury concerns aren’t fully in the rear-view mirror.
“I feel better and better every day,” he said. “It is what it is, but yesterday I felt pretty good. As long as there’s no setbacks, that’s great news.”
Asked Wednesday if he’s had to do anything to manage the injury since re-entering the lineup on Dec. 17, Krejci said that he’s been cautious to make sure what’s been his longest healthy stretch of the season doesn’t get derailed.
“Yeah, just because this is the [fourth] time coming back,” he said. “If it was only the only the first time and I would be fine, I would be like, ‘Oh, whatever,’ but now I know that I have to stay on top of it. Yeah, it’s just because this is the [fourth] time and I don’t want to be sidelined again with that. I’m trying to take care of it every day and it’s been working.”
|01.14.15 at 11:51 am ET|
WILMINGTON — Brad Marchand did not participate in Wednesday’s practice as the Bruins prepared for Thursday’s contest against the Rangers. Claude Julien said following the skate that the veteran left wing had taken a maintenance day.
Marchand played his regular shifts in Tuesday’s win over the Lightning and spoke to the media following the game, an indication that there were no serious injury concerns. Daniel Paille practiced Wednesday in his place on Patrice Bergeron‘s lines.
Boston’s lines in Wednesday’s practice were as follows: