No Patrice Bergeron, no David Krejci, no problem for David Pastrnak.
Although the Boston Bruins lost their top two centers to retirement in the offseason – plus key left-wingers Tyler Bertuzzi and Taylor Hall departed via free agency and trade – Pastrnak hasn’t skipped a beat. After finishing second in Hart Trophy voting last season thanks to a 61-goal, 113-point campaign, Pastrnak is currently on pace for 60 goals and 131 points in 2023-24.
Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery is among those who are surprised Pastrnak’s been able to maintain his elite production.
“I thought that he would have a harder time producing without Bergy and obviously Krejci to work with,” Montgomery said Wednesday, per the Boston Globe’s Conor Ryan. “But I do know, at my year-end meeting with him I said, ‘There’s gonna be a lot more put on you next year.’
“Because we figured (Bergeron and Krejci) were moving on. And he just looked and he goes ‘Yeah, I’m expecting it. Don’t worry about it.’ That’s what he said to me. And now I don’t worry about it.”
It hasn’t all been unfamiliar for Pastrnak. He’s currently playing on a line with long-time running mate Brad Marchand at left wing, and Pavel Zacha – who played left wing opposite Pastrnak for most of last season – at center.
Pastrnak has altered his game a bit, though. While he’s still one of the game’s most lethal snipers, he’s improved his passing, as evidenced by his 13 helpers through 15 games. He’s on pace for a career-high 71 assists.
“Pasta’s become more of a puck possession guy,” Montgomery said. “I think it’s a little bit intentional, understanding that it’s going to take a while to create the kind of creativity that naturally happens when you play with a Krejci or a Bergeron because they’re such intelligent hockey players.”
The Bruins as a whole have shown no signs of regression despite their key offseason departures. After setting the NHL record for wins and points last season, their .867 points percentage is the league’s best in 2023-24.