Mark Gallant The Hockey Writers
Czech-Mates: Krejci and Pastrnak
On Saturday against the Flyers, Boston Bruins rookie David Pastrnak scored his first two NHL goals in a 3-1 victory. In his second game since returning to the big club after a strong showing in the World Junior Championship, the 18-year-old showed strong chemistry with his fellow Czech Republic countryman David Krejci while skating on the first line. The only question that remains is whether Pastrnak will be with the Bruins for two more games or the rest of the season.
Pastrnak has now played in seven NHL games and has two more remaining until the Bruins will decide if he will stay in the NHL and use up the first year of his entry-level contract.
Right now, with the Bruins current roster, it would seem silly to send Pastrnak back down to the AHL. Krejci doesn’t have another suitor that is up to first line standards, and Seth Griffith is not the solution. There have been plenty of trade rumors, but who knows if and when Peter Chiarelli will pull the trigger and land a top-line talent?
Krejci has missed a large chunk of the season so far, but he did make it known last month that he wasn’t entirely pleased with his situation on the first line. Krejci expected to play with Loui Eriksson on his right side this season, but so far, he has seen mixing and matching too much to get comfortable.
Head Coach Claude Julien has been wary about switching up lines in the past, but he has been forced to do so recently. Krejci has been playing with Milan Lucic on his left for years, while Brad Marchand has been on Patrice Bergeron’s left. These past few games, we have seen Julien finally spruce things up in the midst of this disastrous season, and Krejci probably has a smile on his face.
With assists in three straight games, Krejci, the Bruins’ best playmaker, has been able to maximize his creativity with perhaps the most skilled line-mates he has played with in years. Nathan Horton and Jarome Iginla could score goals, but they were power forwards. Same goes for Lucic (if he puts forth the effort). Pastrnak and Marchand are skilled players who can both pass and shoot at a high level. While the line will lack the toughness it has shown in past years, there are honestly not many first lines in the NHL that are tough anymore. Krejci shouldn’t need a Lucic type player to protect him. Besides, when was the last time Krejci was able to pull off a play like this one?
The main issue with Pastrnak is that he is still undersized for an NHL player. However, he didn’t seem afraid to throw his 170-pound frame around against the Flyers. He also scored his first goal because he was able to get down close to the net, which was one thing Julien wanted Pastrnak to improve on. We know he can move around the high slot and get shots off with ease, but at the NHL level, not all goals are going to be top shelf snipes.
Pastrnak may be the youngest player in the NHL, but he is already showing that he can play at a high level. I’m not saying he is going to put up a point per game for the rest of the season, I’m sure he will have some hiccups along the way. His ceiling appears to be very high though, and playing alongside Krejci could be something we should all get used to. If the Bruins aren’t willing to make a blockbuster trade, Pastrnak is the best bet.
Seth Griffith assigned to Providence after Pastrnak’s 2-goal game today. Methinks that evaluation process has gone pretty well for the 18YO
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) January 11, 2015
Pastrnak isn’t going to gain weight or become more physical by spending the rest of the season in the AHL, he can get that done in the offseason. The Bruins need offense and if they manage to make the playoffs, a first line of Lucic-Krejci-Griffith isn’t going to get the job done. Pastrnak isn’t going to make the Bruins a cup contender either, there are other fixes to be made.
Essentially, will the Bruins want Pastrnak to get off to a fresh start and have his contract kick in next season or do they think he can help the Bruins bounce back from their rough start and salvage the season? We will have to wait until later in the week to find out.
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