Entering this season, Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak had already established himself as a star in the NHL. A steal of a draft pick at 25th overall in 2014, Pastrnak stepped right into the Bruins’ lineup that season and never looked back. In 2016-17, he truly broke out with 70 points in 75 games and followed that up with an 80-point campaign last year. Pastrnak scored 34 and 35 goals respectively in those two seasons and seemed destined to improve on that mark as his game continued to mature.
However, no one saw this start coming. Even with all of his early career accomplishments, Pastrnak has never led the Bruins in scoring and was considered by most to be the third-best player on his own line (albeit the NHL’s best line). There were expectations that he could continue to develop and that the goals may come more easily, but Pastrnak’s current clip is relatively unheard of in today’s NHL. Through 20 games, Pastrnak has recorded 17 goals and leads the league my a considerable margin. Tied for second are Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Jeff Skinner of the Buffalo Sabres, who each have just 14 goals and both skated in their 21st game tonight.
While Pastrnak has made a pretty strong case for himself as the Rocket Richard favorite a quarter of the way through the season, is he on his way to a historic season. If Pastrnak keeps up his current goal scoring rate through all 82 games – and he has played in all but seven of 182 regular season and postseason games over the past two years – he would net 70 goals this season. Even assuming he doesn’t play every game or his otherworldly clip falls off, 60 goals is still reasonable for Pastrnak this season. Only twenty different players have ever scored 60+ goals in an NHL season, some multiple times, but it has become increasingly infrequent over time. Since the turn of the century, only two players have reached the mark. Alex Ovechkin scored 65 goals in 2007-08 and Steven Stamkos just narrowly reached 60 goals in 2011-12. The only other player to get remotely close since 2000 was Hall of Famer Pavel Bure with 59 in 2000-01. The days of 60-goal scorers seemed to have passed, but Pastrnak has an actual shot this year.
Other than a possible injury or cold streak, working against Pastrnak could actually be his all-world line mates. Patrice Bergeron, currently sidelined with an upper-body injury, is 33 years old and has had his fair share of injury concerns over the past couple of years. With Bergeron out of the lineup on Saturday night, head coach Bruce Cassidy re-shuffled the lines, separating Pastrnak and Brad Marchand by mixing them in with a middle-six group that, while talented, has been inconsistent and relatively ineffective this year. Bergeron’s availability could dictate Pastrnak’s scoring capacity this season. The same goes for Marchand, who has been well-behaved by his standards thus far, but could be suspended for a substantial amount of time given his history if he was to slip up. Pastrnak independently is an excellent player who does not necessarily need to exclusively play with elite players to be productive. However, to keep up a pace of close to a goal per game, Pastrnak will need the help of Bergeron and Marchand as often as possible.
What do you think? Are we seeing history in the making or just a hot start? Can Pastrnak really crack 60 goals?