|David Pastrnak’s first year burned off as his line comes down to earth||01.17.15 at 10:59 pm ET|
Given all of the attention that’s been placed on Pastrnak prior to the Bruins deciding to keep him and the success that the trio has had, the goose-egg from Boston’s trio actually is somewhat notable, really only because it’s the first time the line hasn’t been very good since being united.
Pastrnak, who has now officially accrued one season of service time in the eyes of the NHL and NHLPA (Saturday was 10th NHL game this season, which means this season is officially the first of his three-year entry level contract) and his linemates came down earth against the Blue Jackets, overpassing and losing the possession battle in Boston’s first regulation loss in 10 games.
“A lot of passing, a lot of missed passes,” Lucic said. “Maybe trying to do too much and didn’t play that north-south type of game that gave us success when we were put together originally.
“We have to know night-in, night-out as a line that in order to be successful and get results and contribute to the team, that there’s a certain way that we need to play. That’s a straight-ahead game and using our speed and obviously using our skill, but when we’re moving straight ahead and using all those things, that’s when we’re going to have success.”
The line nearly scored in the first period when David Krejci threw a puck on net from the top of the right circle that bounced off Pastrnak’s skates in front with half the net open. Pastrnak whiffed on his shot attempt as the puck glided to Blue Jackets netminder Curtis McElhinney. That stood as the line’s best chance, though Pastrnak did draw a penalty in the final minute of the period when he was tripped by Scott Hartnell.
But that was the extent of the good for the line offensively. Though Lucic tied for the team lead with five shots on goal, the Czech Davids combined for zero. Saturday was Pastrnak’s first game without a shot on goal since his NHL debut on Nov. 24.
Since coming up, Pastrnak has been a standout player. He’s found instant chemistry with Krejci, whose vision and creativity could make him a 30-goal scorer in future seasons. Yet there will be speed bumps along the way, such as when Pastrnak took a drop pass from Krejci entering the zone in the first period and, rather than shooting or finding Krejci again, forced a n0-look pass across the ice to Lucic that would have earned him an intentional grounding penalty in the NFL.
“That line didn’t do much for us tonight; nobody did as a matter of fact,” Julien said. “We need David to use his speed on the outside; we need Krech to make sure to use his speed on the outside and find him. If you’re going to be cute and try and overpass, you’re not going to get the results. That’s not how we’ve had success in the past. I don’t think that’s how we’re going to get success in the future.”
One telling takeaway that should bode well for this line’s future: In eight periods together, the Lucic-Krejci-Pastrnak trio has yet to get scored on. They have four goals for and none against.
|Bruins to keep David Pastrnak, burn off first year of entry level contract||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.
|Bruins confident David Pastrnak can hold up defensively||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.”
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.”
|Offensively starved Bruins turn to David Pastrnak||01.06.15 at 2:24 pm ET|
The Bruins are ready to continue with the David Pastrnak experiment.
After being recalled from Providence Monday, the Czech 18-year-old rotated with Seth Griffith on the right wing of David Krejci‘s line and worked with Krejci, Zdeno Chara, Brad Marchand and Torey Krug on Boston’s first power play unit. Though it’s not known when he will get back into game action, it appears the Bruins are turning to Pastrnak as they desperately seek any sort of offensive presence.
Pastrnak had a goal and six assists for the Czech Republic during the World Juniors. He played Sunday in Providence, and now the Bruins will determine a game plan for when to get him back into Boston’s lineup.
“I definitely have to talk to our group here and see how they want him to be utilized,” Claude Julien said. “I don’t make those decisions by myself. I work with my general manager and we look at the situation. He’s come back from the World Juniors. Is he still tired? What’s the situation? Do they just want to get him into a few practices before we put him in a game? I haven’t had a chance to discuss that with Peter [Chiarelli].”
Pastrnak said he isn’t tired from World Juniors, saying he feels ready to resume his NHL career. He was impressive in his five-game stint with the B’s earlier this season, getting ample playing with Patrice Bergeron and landing seven shots on goal in Boston’s Nov. 28 win over the Jets.
Yet it seems this recall isn’t about Bergeron’s line, but rather Krejci’s. Pastrnak, a right shot right wing, grew up idolizing Krejci, while Krejci has has seen a cast of players — Griffith, Simon Gagne, Loui Eriksson, Craig Cunningham and Reilly Smith — used as his right wing this season.
Though he is young and still very light (he’s listed at 165 pounds and probably weighs somewhere around 170), Pastrnak would give the Krejci line the most talented and dynamic right wing its had all season. The 2014 first-round pick leads Providence with 10 goals and 27 points on the season.
Pastrnak downplayed his excitement to potentially skate with Krejci.
“I don’t know,” Pastrnak said. “I had one practice with David and he’s a great player, but everybody here is good and I’d be happy for any minute I’d be on the ice.”
If Pastrnak plays five more NHL games this season, the first year of his three-year entry level contract will be burned.
|Team meeting spurs David Krejci, Bruins to pick up slack for Milan Lucic, Patrice Bergeron||12.30.14 at 8:06 am ET|
Earlier in the year, it was up to Bergeron and Lucic to pick up the slack for Krejci and Zdeno Chara when they were out with injuries. This time around it was Krejci and Brad Marchand who led an offensive attack that generated five goals on 45 shots against the Red Wings, and the result was a desperately needed 5-2 win at TD Garden Monday night.
From the first puck-drop, the Bruins were skating hard in all three zones, mucking up the area in front of Detroit goalie Jimmy Howard. Krejci’s best move of the night came on the power play in the third period after the Wings had cut the lead to 3-2 after two.
The center skated into the left offensive corner with the puck and gave Seth Griffith enough time to find an open area in a triangle of three penalty-killing Wings. Krejci delivered a short, crisp pass onto Griffith’s stick and Griffith snapped off a perfect shot that beat Howard for a 4-2 lead.
“We just shot everything on the net,” Krejci said. “We tried to crash the net. That’s what happened on the first goal. [Marchand] had a good screen. I thought we had more than 15 shots after the first period. We talk about it, just put the puck on net, create some traffic and don’t pass on any shooting opportunities. We did a pretty good job at it.”
The big question is why the Bruins, with or without their top players, haven’t played like that more often.
“That’s a good question, but obviously we are trying,” Krejci said. “We kind of talked about a bunch of things [Sunday] and it seems like it worked but like I said before, we did it before and followed up with a bad game. We don’t need to have talks like we did before this game and just go out there and realize what you’re playing for and we got to get back in the hunt. It was a good game today, but we have to follow up with another one.”
|David Krejci thinks Bruins should prioritize first line, too||12.22.14 at 4:05 pm ET|
David Krejci might want to know who his right wing is as much as anyone else.
Claude Julien‘s hands are tied. Partially because of Krejci’s injuries, he waited too long to try Loui Eriksson with Krejci and Milan Lucic. Eriksson has undeniable chemistry with Carl Soderberg and Chris Kelly, but the Bruins haven’t given him a chance to develop chemistry with Lucic and Krejci. Given where they currently fall in the standings, the B’s might not think they can afford a games-long getting-to-know-you period if the B’s don’t win games in the process.
So that leaves Krejci, who thought he knew who he’d have for linemates after Jarome Iginla left, with four different right wings (Seth Griffith, Simon Gagne, Craig Cunningham and, ever so briefly, Eriksson) in 14 games this season.
“Everything was – it looked like we were going to play with Loui from the beginning. If not, then someone else, so it was kind of a tough situation,” Krejci told WEEI.com Monday. “I was preparing myself the whole summer [as though] I would be playing with Loui. That was on my mind. Then some injuries and those guys play pretty well together right now with Carl and Kells as a line, so yeah.”
Added Krejci: “I’m happy that we’re winning, but I’d like to be putting some points up as well. That’s why I’m here. That’s why they re-signed me. It gets a little frustrating at times. You always play with somebody else, but I’m sure we’re going to find the right guy. If not, who knows what happens? There’s always trades, you know.”
On Sunday, Julien finally started Eriksson on Krejci’s right wing to open the game. The line had a so-so first period, but allowed a second-period goal and followed it up with a shift that saw Krejci give the puck away and Lucic mishandle the puck at the blue line. Krejci’s misplay led to a Sabres scoring chance; Lucic’s forced Dougie Hamilton to trip Tyler Ennis in the neutral zone and put the Bruins on the penalty kill.
Julien returned Eriksson to Soderberg’s line, with Kelly scoring on the trio’s first shift back together. Eriksson scored the game-winner in overtime on a feed from Lucic, but it was during a line change.
While Eriksson with Kelly and Soderberg has been Boston’s most consistent line this season, it isn’t like any of Boston’s forwards are having particularly good seasons. The Bruins are the only team in the league without a nine-goal scorer. They’re one of three teams (with the Sabres and Coyotes the other two) who haven’t seen a player reach 10 goals.
Part of the Bruins’ offensive problem has been that they’ve only had Krejci for 14 games, leading Julien to mix and match different lines and play Soderberg’s line against other team’s top forwards and defensemen. Krejci’s return allows the Soderberg line to go back to playing against bottom-six players and third-pairing defensemen, which makes their job easier.
In a perfect world, the Bruins shouldn’t need Eriksson to win those shifts, as Soderberg is probably a little better than a third-line player, while Kelly has been a solid third-liner for years.
The Bruins value secondary scoring, but having a good first line is more important. The Bruins are better off when Krejci is at his best, and Krejci’s at his best when he’s comfortable with his linemates rather than taking turns training potential candidates.
So maybe it’s Eriksson and maybe it’s somebody else, but teams don’t miss the playoffs because they don’t have great third lines; they do because they don’t have first lines. Krejci is eager for Boston’s to take shape.