Watching last night’s game on NBC Sports was kind of a weird experience, aside from Pierre McGuire’s usual ramblings on where each player ate lunch on the day before his last day of second grade.
Mike Milbury, noted genius general manager, is usually a fountain of bad takes. Last night was no exception, as he continually harped on David Pastrnak for the better part of the first period.
Milbury’s insistence that Pastrnak just needed to do this or that to become a star player (wrong) or that he was a liability who was harming the team up and down the ice (wrong again) came off as borderline personal, but it’s probably all Milbury knew from reading the papers from the day before.
That’s right: the “Pastrnak is hurting the team” hot takes are coming out of the woodwork!
In Monday’s game against Minnesota, Pastrnak had a couple of hiccups here and there, including a turnover that led to a goal and another one that led to a near-goal.
What happened? Bruce Cassidy shortened his bench, talked with Pastrnak about tightening things up after the game and all parties involved moved on.
Two days later, all anyone following the team could talk about was how “bad” Pastrnak has been, which is probably where Milbury got his takes from.
The problem, of course, is that Pastrnak hasn’t been bad at all. He’s had a few miscues here and there as young players do, and has more than made up for them on the other end of the ice.
For some reason, whether it’s the new contract or the lack of anything else to talk about, Pastrnak has become the new lightning rod for criticism by media and fans alike.
This isn’t to say that all criticism is off-base, of course. Pastrnak HAS been a bit sloppy with the puck at times lately. However, the idea that he should be demoted to the bottom six or should be a healthy scratch to “send a message!!!!!!!!” is absurd.
The only message that would be sent by scratching Pastrnak is one telling the team “we don’t want to win,” as the young Czech is literally the only dangerous or consistent offensive weapon the Bruins have right now.
The narratives haven’t quite reached Dougie Hamilton levels yet, but the way this has developed has been truly odd.
Pastrnak is 21 years old. He is leading the team in points, goals, and shots. He is second on the team in points per game. He’s putting up points at a clip that would come out to 93 points over an entire season. He’s on pace to score 52 goals this season. 52!!!!! (Obviously paces aren’t always sustained.)
His offense and creativity leads to more scoring chances for his team than his occasional mistakes lead to chances for the opposition.
And all of a sudden he’s a huge defensive liability who must be demoted or scratched, to Learn A Valuable Hockey Boy Lesson™?
Give me a break.
Per NHL.com’s (admittedly unreliable) stats page, Pastrnak has been dinged for 12 giveaways this season; he’s also credited with 11 takeaways. Boiling it down to an extremely basic level, he’s given the puck away one more time than he’s taken it back.
Consider the differentials of other guys on the team: Brad Marchand is at -8, Torey Krug is at -8, Zdeno Chara is at -5.
Does anyone hear calls for them to be scratched? (OK, maybe some have called for Krug, but that’s not going to happen.)
It’s obvious to anyone who has watched this team so far this season that Pastrnak’s offensive talents are about a billion times more valuable than the cost of any mistakes on the other end. The fact that a handful of games into the season we have a large segment of the fan base clamoring for the most-talented player on the team to sit because he had a bumpy few games is completely ridiculous.
Why? It’s hard to say. Some probably still aren’t happy that he got a big contract. Others don’t like that he plays a creative/skill game instead of a grit/grind game. Still others just need someone else to harp on now that Jimmy Hayes is off the roster.
Relax. Pastrnak is 21 years old. He’ll have games where he makes mistakes and turns the puck over. He’s one of two players on the roster who dares to get creative with the puck.
Sometimes that will burn the team; the vast majority of the time, however, it’ll work out in their favor.
Cassidy already handled the situation perfectly (paraphrasing): “Hey kid, try to be a little more careful at the attacking blueline and in our end. Don’t bail on being creative. Play your game.”
Anything more is overkill, and would do more harm than good.
Let the kid play his game.