Stop Bruins’ David Pastrnak or say goodbye early to the Maple Leafs

Get the latest from Steve Simmons straight to your inbox

Article content

The way to beat the Boston Bruins is rather simple and rather impossible, all at the very same time.

Advertisement 2

Article content

You have to find a way to control David Pastrnak.

Article content

He is, in many ways, the Bruins’ centrepiece, although he doesn’t play centre.

Leafs killers of the past, Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, have moved on to retirement, leaving the mercurial Pastrnak as Boston’s surest thing.

Pastrnak led the Bruins this season with 110 points — 43 more than any other player, which in this case means 43 points more than the nefarious Brad Marchand. Last year, he was 46 points ahead of Marchand.

Everybody else in Boston lines up after them offensively.

If the Leafs can’t find a way to deal with Pastrnak, they have little chance of winning a series between two very differently built and stylistically different teams — although they do have rather similar records.

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Boston won all four games against Toronto this season, which is somewhat suspect now because two of those games went to overtime and one was decided by shootout. None of that factors come playoff time.

Pastrnak had seven points in four games against the Maple Leafs, two of those being three-point games. The Leafs had seven goals in total against the Bruins.

And therein lies the first of many problems for coach Sheldon Keefe: What do you do to stop or slow Pastrnak?

And how, with the series starting on the road, do you get the matchups you want and need in the first two games?

Some coaches — Pat Burns being one of them — liked to match best line against best line. And, if he liked his first line, he was happy to put Doug Gilmour out against Jeremy Roenick or Wayne Gretzky or Steve Yzerman in the playoffs.

Advertisement 4

Article content

Some coaches shadow forwards with other forwards. Some coaches have shutdown pairs on defence specifically assigned to match the opposition. The Leafs, unfortunately, do not have such a tandem on their blueline.

They will need more of a team concept to attack Pastrnak and attempt to limit his excellence.

How much does Pastrank means to the Bruins? Look at it this way: When he doesn’t get any points in a game, and that happened 22 times this season, the Bruins won five of those games.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

When Pastrnak gets only one point in a game — either a goal or an assist — the Bruins lost just five of 18 games in regulation time.

But the big number comes when Pastrnak gets two points or more in a game, which he did 37 times this season: Boston has a ridiculous record of 30 wins and three losses in regulation in that time.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Translated, if Pasternak gets two points or more in any playoff game, Leafs are done that night.

Since Jan. 1, though, which represents more than half the regular season, the Maple Leafs and Bruins basically have the same record. Toronto, the leading scoring team in the Eastern Conference, both scored more goals and gave up more goals against.

Since March 1, both teams have won 12 games and the Leafs have one more point than the Bruins in that time.

Pastrnak scored three more points than goal-scoring machine Auston Matthews managed through a full season.

The two giants were all but even playing 5-on-5 hockey. Pastrnak was a touch more efficient on the power play than Matthews, which always has been a bit of a mystery for the Leafs. Why Matthews isn’t this great power-play scorer is more on coaching and structure than on him.

The Leafs could have knocked Boston out in Game 6 in Toronto on a Sunday afternoon in their playoff series in 2019. They had no jump that day. They lost the final two games of the series without much of an answer of system or execution.

Advertisement 6

Article content

They lost the year before that to the Bruins after winning Games 5 and 6 to tie the series. Game 7 was tied heading into the third period in 2018. The Leafs were dominated in the final period, with Bergeron and Krejci each contributing three points and two from Pastrnak and Marchand in the final period.

Matthews, William Nylander and Mitch Marner, it being playoffs, combined to score no goals that night. Which is why, even now, controlling Pastrnak as best you can means so much to the possible success of the Leafs.

Last year in the playoffs, when the checking got tighter and the goaltending got better, the Leafs scored only 10 goals in five games and were handily eliminated by the Florida Panthers.

Matthews had no goals in the series. Had he scored once or twice in the series, with the games as close as they were, he could have moved the needle for Toronto.

Advertisement 7

Article content

Recommended from Editorial

Pastrnak is involved with 41% of the Boston offence. Matthews scored 22.7% of the Toronto goals and was involved with 35% of the Leafs offence this year.

For his career, which is on the upswing, Pastrnak has scored 1.07 points per game, that coming after scoring 1.34 points per game this season. In playoffs, his numbers drop just slightly, from 1.07 to 1.02.

The Bruins are too strong in goal and too sharp on defence for Toronto to try and match Boston mistake-for-mistake and goal-for-goal. The Leafs need to play a smarter game than that, beginning with a strategy in place to try and limit Pastrnak’s effectiveness.

The series starts there for the Leafs. It’s stop Pastrnak time for Toronto and, if not, another year of wondering ‘what if?’ come playoff time.

[email protected]

Article content

Source link

Denial of responsibility! NewsConcerns is an automatic aggregator of the all world’s media. In each content, the hyperlink to the primary source is specified. All trademarks belong to their rightful owners, all materials to their authors. If you are the owner of the content and do not want us to publish your materials, please contact us by email – [email protected]. The content will be deleted within 24 hours.

Leave a Comment