Coming into this season, David Pastrnak was already known for a few things: his skill and his speed. The question then became what benchmarks he could hit as a young scorer. In a system with Claude Julien that typically has given skepticism to younger players in the last few seasons (see Seguin, Hamilton), where would Pastrnak find his role?
Well, let’s now fast forward to the present day. Pasta is tied for the most goals scored in the NHL with Sidney Crosby. He’s projected for somewhere over 50 goals this season. On a team where leaders like Patrice Bergeron haven’t seen the scoreboard in what feels like ages, Pastrnak is basically leading the B’s in so many offensive categories, not just goals. He’s tied with Brad Marchand for total points. he’s got the highest +/- on the team as a +17, and he’s ahead of everyone in shooting percentage by more than a full percent. So what about his game has made him so successful?
His clapper isn’t just fast, it’s pinpoint accurate at this point, being able to blister by opposing goaltenders in the best spots. Take this goal at the Bell Centre in November.
He rips this goal perfectly far-side on Carey Price, and while the B’s weren’t able to pull out a win in this game, this goal tied it early in the third, keeping the team in it.
It isn’t always on his slap shots either. He’s getting the puck off his stick so fast that no matter the angle, he can find a modicum of open net to shoot at. Look at his goal against the Maple Leafs in the beginning of the season.
Despite drifting almost right to the goal line, his quick snapper goes high, blocker-side past a sprawling Frederik Andersen. If he had hesitated at any point in his shooting motion, Andersen may have had the time to keep his body more upright and prevent Pasta from having clear net to hit. By getting the shot off fast, he forces Andersen to move laterally so fast, opening his spot to score.
These two goals, almost a month apart, are virtually identical. This first one is against the Arizona Coyotes.
And this one comes versus the Colorado Avalanche.
Face-off to the left of the goalie. Bergeron wins the face-off to Pastrnak, who quickly gets the puck to the point. Marchand slides down to the corner or boards, while Pastrnak jumps to the top of the slot. The disc quickly goes from the defenseman on the wall, to Marchand to Pasta, who rips a one-timer past the goaltender. Both plays are executed to perfection, with Pastrnak being the recipient of two beautiful goals.
Even with how good his shot is, he’s still willing to get in front of the net and clean up rebounds.
Pasta gets inside position in a triad of Flames defenders in TJ Brodie, Dougie Hamilton and Troy Brouwer, finds the rebound from Schaller’s backhand shot and gets his own shot to the back of the net while fighting off stick and body pressure from Brodie. Not every goal is going to be pretty, but they all count, and Pastrnak is making sure he gets his share.
Speed and Skill
Even with the parts of his game that have evolved, his speed and skill are still some of his best assets.
On his overtime winner against the Panthers, he cycles around the neutral zone, waiting for Krejci to come back up the wall. Once he does, Pasta takes the puck, speeds by and around Matheson, and in tight on Roberto Luongo, makes a tough move to elevate the puck over his pads to win it. Speed and skill certainly prevail here.
This shootout beauty against the ‘Canes shows how he can sell a move, in this case a backhand shot, getting Ward to commit to the fake and opening up the forehand move for an easy goal.
With all that Pasta has done this season, he’s developed into one of the top goal scorers in the NHL. How many do you think he can score?