Pastrnak Defying Early Expectations

After missing the first seven games of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery, David Pastrnak returned to the Bruins lineup this past Saturday (January 30th) against the Washington Capitals. Many people, including head coach Bruce Cassidy, expected him to have a slower start. It normally takes players a bit to look like themselves after long layoffs. So, it makes sense why people would assume that. However, they were very, very wrong. Pastrnak wasted absolutely no time making his presence known. Per Conor Ryan of Boston Sports Journal, he has a whopping five goals in his past two games (five in three overall), 37 shot attempts in 62 minutes of ice time, eight high-danger scoring chances, and a 70% shots-for rate at even strength.

While it’s a small sample size, those are unbelievable numbers for any player, let alone one coming off of a long layoff against tough opponents in the Capitals and Philadelphia Flyers. So, it begs the question, why did we doubt him in the first place?

Pastrnak Has Done This Before

Back in the 2018-19 season, David Pastrnak missed over a month (16 games) due to a thumb injury. Most people didn’t expect a ton of production for a bit after his return, because most players typically take a few games to shake the rust off. This is particularly the case with hand and/or upper-body injuries because they can’t even do shooting and stickhandling drills while rehabbing. But, Pastrnak defied our expectations and put up four points in his first three games back, and 15 in ten games to end the season. So, as you can see, Pastrnak had shown us recently that he’s not one to let injuries hold him back, and instead goes on a tear upon his return. Therefore, we probably should’ve expected similar this time around. 

He’s Also A Confident Player Who Tends to Start Fast

On top of his recent history coming back from injury, Pastrnak has started the past two seasons fast. In both 2018-19 and 2019-20, he had ten points in his first six games. So, he seems to not be bothered by the offseason, unlike some players. It also helps this year that, because he was recovering from hip surgery, all he could do for most of the offseason was upper-body workouts and work on his shot and hands. So, it’s safe to say they somehow got even better, and because of that we really should’ve known he’d be ready to go on an early tear this year. 

In addition to all that, Pastrnak is a confident player. He knows he’s good. He also has a very good grasp of what exactly his skills are. This all allows him to be the best player possible because he stays in his lane and normally doesn’t try to do too much. That makes for a terrifying player at any point, but particularly at the beginning of the season, because no one is as good at the beginning of the season as they are at its’ peak. But, the way Pastrnak knows and accepts his limitations allows him to stay within them, and not try and do more than he can at any particular point. That isn’t the case for most players.

Tell Me, Why Did So Many Doubt Him?

All in all, I’m not quite sure why so many doubted Pastrnak’s ability to avoid rust. Granted, I didn’t expect him to start quite this fast, but I figured he’d do well. His recent history with both injuries and the beginning of the season told us that. Plus, he’s a confident player who knows and accepts exactly what his strengths are, which allows him to stay within them and not try to do too much. On top of all that, he’s truly become an elite player in this league. That alone should’ve told us he’d be fine because they tend to avoid rust better than most other players. It’s part of what makes them so great.

So, while I understand thinking he may have a slow start to some degree because it’s the norm, Pastrnak has never been a normal player, and he never will be. So, we can’t judge him by normal standards. That being said, I’m glad people still set their expectations for him lower than they should. We all know how annoying Bruins fans can get when players don’t live up to their normally insane expectations, so it’s a welcome change. Hopefully, we continue to inexplicably underestimate him. Not only is it less of a headache for me, but it seems to make him play better.

-Lydia Murray (@lydia_murray12)

Featured image courtesy of Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

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