When the NHL suspended its season on March 12, few teams were rolling down the stretch as well as the Boston Bruins.
Last year’s Stanley Cup Final runners-up are the leagues leaders by a six-point margin and are a Cup favourite should they resume playing this season. (The team that beat them, the St. Louis Blues, are sitting second.)
While credit for the club’s success goes to its excellent depth — we saw that in spades throughout last year’s playoff run — there’s one player in particular who’s shining the brightest: David Pastrnak.
The 2019-20 campaign has been the best season of Pastrnak’s career. Through 70 games, he’d already tallied personal-bests across the board: 48 goals, 47 assists and 95 points.
Few people have witnessed Pastrnak’s power and progression like Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy, who coached the Czech forward in the AHL before they both eventually made the jump to the NHL.
During an appearance on Hockey Central on Monday, Cassidy shared some of his perspective on what makes Pastrnak so good — and a lot of it has to do with his mindset and self-starting nature — with an anecdote from his early days coaching him with their AHL affiliate:
“David Pastrnak’s playing for us in Providence, I believe he’s 19 at the time. He goes to the world junior championship the year it was in Toronto and Montreal (in 2015),” Cassidy explained. “I think they lost out on Friday night, he travels all day Saturday to get back to Providence, comes in (Sunday) morning, and I always write the lineup on the board. So he walks in … and goes, ‘where’s my number on the board?’”
Cassidy told his young forward management wanted him to rest up after the tournament.
“He says, ‘No, I want to play. I’m here to play, that’s what I do.’ So he’s playing the world junior championships one night, flies to Boston, drives into Providence and the kid wants to play. Tells you all you need to know about him in terms of his commitment to being a hockey player,” Cassidy said.
The head coach said when it comes to coaching the forward over the past few years, “I kind of let him be with the skill part of it.” He said team leaders and linemates like Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand played crucial roles in his development, too.
“He’s a great kid, comes to work every day, there’s not a lot of coaching that needs to be done with him,” he said.
As for Pastrnak’s infamously sparse tape job on his stick…
“Yeah, I don’t know where that comes from, but all the little kids want it now,” said Cassidy, laughing, adding that his son’s teammates all try to mimic it with their sticks. “Anyway, he’s left his mark. It works for him.”