David Pastrnak's season may have started a little late, owing to hip surgery he had in September. But in just three games back wearing the black and gold, Pasta has already become one of the Bruins' top offensive contributors for the entire season. And no other Bruin has had a more outsized influence on his team's success than Pastrnak did Wednesday night in Philadelphia, where he scored all three of the Bruins' regulation goals and assisted on the OT winner.
The first third of the hat trick came just 12 seconds into the game. Pasta got the puck in stride at center ice, smoothly entered the zone, slipped a check from Shayne Gostisbehere, and then put it in the net before any Flyers knew what hit 'em. In his seventh period of the NHL season, this was Pastrnak's third in a row with a goal.
And before I fast forward, Pastrnak was this close to getting another spectacular goal in very similar fashion midway through the second period.
But, as you can see, he was stoned by Carter Hart, whose work in net eventually allowed the Flyers to build a 3-1 lead with under 10 minutes to go. That lead, however, was dramatically squandered by a series of mistakes from Philly, who kept sending men to the box and continually allowed Boston to capitalize on the advantage.
For his second goal of the game, Pastrnak got the puck delivered to him on a silver platter by Patrice Bergeron, who unselfishly passed up a decent opportunity down low to give his teammate essentially a free shot on net. And then, with under 20 seconds left, Pasta got clutch, using perfect hand-eye coordination to bat in a biscuit that kept bouncing all over the Flyers' defense. That goal, his fifth on the year, pulled Pastrnak into sole possession of third place on the Bruins leaderboard, even though he's only played in 30 percent of Boston's games. (He also, impressively, now has 60 goals in his last 82 games played.)
Oh yeah, and there's one more goal to cover—the big winner. Once again on the power play, Pastrnak made like he was going to take a big one-timer from pretty far out but then softly sent the puck down to the crease. Bergeron fired once and hit the pads of Hart, but on the second opportunity he got what he needed to end the game.
So the East (division not conference) is looking pretty fascinating this year, eh? You have Boston on top now at 7-1-2 with that win last night, and then the Flyers even on points but just below them at 7-2-2. And then there are the Capitals, looking surprisingly strong at 6-1-3 despite an aging roster and the absences they've had to deal with. And below them, looking for that last playoff spot, you have a brand name like the Penguins and a difficult team like the Islanders all mixed in with the wild cards that are the Devils, Rangers, and Sabres.
Not bad, honestly, but the point I'm getting at is that the reigning Presidents' Trophy winners, the Bruins, still look better than everybody else. Most importantly, last night's win puts them at 3-0 against the Flyers so far this year, and though two of those encounters might have had razor-thin margins, they've still taken away six points from head-to-head battles, where the Flyers have only grabbed two. Given that two of those wins—and Boston's 5-1-1 start in general—came without Pastrnak in the lineup, it's not going to get any easier to beat them.