‘Much more talkative’ David Pastrnak embracing leadership role with Boston Bruins

      After the Bruins went from a loud to a quiet group because of roster turnover, 'Pasta' is becoming more vocal.

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      David Pastrnak rolled into Toronto over the weekend and, on the surface, conquered the way he normally does. He scored his Boston Bruins-leading 14th goal to open the scoring in the first period of Saturday’s game at Scotiabank Arena. He assisted on their second goal. He fed super-heel Brad Marchand for a storybook-ending goal in overtime. Pastrnak earned the first star of the game. All par for the course. He’s fresh off a 61-goal season in which he finished second in the Hart Trophy vote, after all.

      But on the Bruins bench? It wasn’t the version of ‘Pasta’ the hockey public has come to know, the superstar-grade sniper known for his snappy suits. None of those things has gone away, to be clear. But as coach Jim Montgomery indicated after the game, Pastrnak has become something more this season.

      “On the bench he’s much more talkative,” Montgomery said. “He’s very positive on the bench, whereas last year he didn’t concern himself with having to do that, because we had so many other great leaders. But he’s grown like that and he’s also grown in his playmaking.”

      It’s no secret the Bruins had one of the more unprecedented roster exoduses in recent NHL history over the summer. Coming off an NHL-record 65-win season, they said goodbye to six-time Selke Trophy winner and No. 1 center Patrice Bergeron and No. 2 center David Krejci, two of the only three Bruins left on the roster who won the Stanley Cup in 2010-11; a former longtime NHL captain in Nick Foligno; seasoned veteran forwards Taylor Hall, Tyler Bertuzzi and Garnet Hathaway; and defensemen Dmitry Orlov and Connor Clifton, among others. When the puck dropped on the Bruins’ 2023-24 season opener, they dressed six players who weren’t in their lineup in their final playoff game the previous spring.

      From a pure skill standpoint, the losses were a lot to overcome. But they felt it even more on the bench and in the dressing room. There was simply no replacing what Bergeron in particular brought as a leader. That’s why ‘Pasta,’ who is the second-most tenured active Bruin now behind Marchand, became more vocal this season. It wasn’t something Montgomery specifically asked Pastrnak to do, and it also isn’t something Pastrnak has consciously forced. It just happened.

      “I haven’t been working on it, but I had great teachers throughout my career and still [do],” Pastrnak said. “Those big leaders are not here now, so I feel like it’s sometimes good for me to speak up and also learn that way.”

      “We’ve lost a couple talkers, guys who talked like ‘Bergie’ (Bergeron), ‘Fliggy’ (Foligno), guys like that,” said right winger Trent Frederic. “Maybe more of a quieter group [now]. So it’s good to have guys keeping it light and keeping it positive.”

      Even if Pastrnak was mute, he’d be one of the most impactful players on the planet. Only Auston Matthews, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid have more goals in the past five seasons. Saturday’s three-point night lifted Pastrnak into a tie for second in the NHL scoring race. He’s learning how to make others around him better, too. He’s averaging by far the most assists and primary assists per 60 of his career at all strengths.

      A version of him that still buries goals but also sets up teammates, rallies the younger players and inspires them with his positivity? That’s the most complete version of Pastrnak yet. And 2023-24 might be therefore be his best shot at winning his first MVP.



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