The Montreal Canadiens took a chapter out of the oldest hockey book in the world, and their brand of “old school” physical hockey still couldn’t slow down Bruins super scorer David Pastrnak on Sunday.
More importantly for Boston, now winners of seven straight games: Pastrnak showed he could take that chapter of the book and shove it down the Canadiens’ throats during a 3-1 win at TD Garden.
The best sign of Pastrnak’s coming of age this season was when he was shoved by Brendan Gallagher before the puck dropped for a faceoff with 2:51 left in the second period. Pastrnak shoved Gallagher back and forced the linesmen to break up a mini scrum.
Then after he avoided a Gallagher cross check, Pastrnak got taken down by Montreal defenseman Shea Weber (6-foot-4, 230 pounds) in the neutral zone. Pastrnak got up and gave the Canadiens captain a shove that set off a mini melee.
If the Canadiens, and the rest of the league, didn’t know yet: Pastrnak can play with an edge.
“Yeah, you know there were times I’d probably get frustrated a couple years ago. But you know these days … it’s Montreal coming in the building, it’s nothing else expected, a physical and a really hyped-up game,” Pastrnak said after the victory.
Pastrnak got nailed a little late and from behind not long after the Weber penalty, by Joel Armia. In the third period, with the Bruins protecting their lead, Pastrnak got leveled at the blue line by Ben Chiarot. The 23-year-old right wing bounced right back up each time.
This is a trend that will continue for however long Pastrnak is the hottest hand in the league, maybe several more years. Coach Bruce Cassidy knows it’ll be up to Pastrnak to keep himself healthy because the coach doesn’t plan to keep his star away from certain matchups, and the Bruins don’t have a Tom Wilson-type player that can skate on Pastrnak’s type of line and protect him the way Wilson does Alex Ovechkin.
The onus will be on Pastrnak, with some help from his teammates doing what they can, to discourage an all-out war on Pastrnak’s well-being.
“So some of it is, when he’s receiving the puck, he’s going to have to pre-scout, work back some of these more physical guys so he doesn’t put himself in vulnerable positions,” Cassidy said. “Certainly we can push back and I thought we did, it upped our emotional energy. We got in there and battled as a group, and that sometimes tempers it as well. If you don’t back each other up, teams feel like they can take liberties. I wouldn’t go as far as saying liberties on them tonight, I thought they just played him hard. Part of that’s just hockey.”
For the third straight game, the Bruins faced a third-period deficit. For the second straight game, Pastrnak scored the game-tying goal in the third period. When you score as many as Pastrnak has, many of them are going to turn out to be important.
Stay fresh and healthy to be available for those third periods will be as important to Pastrnak and the Bruins moving forward as getting him free for those power-play one-timers from the left circle.
It looks like Pastrnak’s not about to get pushed around.