Nick Goss

Bruins need stellar Game 7 from Pastrnak to avoid disaster vs. Leafs

Pastrnak has yet to take over a game in this series. He has one more chance Saturday.

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It's hard to win big games without your best players performing at an elite level. And if the Boston Bruins are going to survive the first round and eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs, they need David Pastrnak to dominate Saturday night in Game 7.

Pastrnak is a superstar player. He has scored 40-plus goals in each of the last three seasons and has posted back-to-back 100-point campaigns. Not many players in the NHL are capable of taking over games offensively like Pastrnak can.

But outside of just a couple moments, Pastrnak has failed to make much of an impact in this series, and his performance in the last two matchups -- including Thursday night's 2-1 loss in Game 6 in Toronto -- has been particularly lackluster.

So much so that Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery actually called out Pastrnak in his postgame press conference at Scotiabank Arena.

"Your best players need to be your best players this time of the year," Montgomery said. "I think the effort is tremendous, and they need to come through with some big-time plays in big-time moments. (Brad) Marchand has done that in this series. Pasta needs to step up."

What does Montgomery want to see from Pastrnak in Game 7?

"He needs to be the dominant player we're used to," Montgomery said. "He's doing it in flurries, he's not doing it as consistently as he did in the regular season. His linemates need to help him, too. We're not as good of an offensive team right now as we were in the regular season."

The Leafs have done everything possible to limit Pastrnak's time and space with the puck. They have been hitting him constantly, trying to wear him down. Pastrnak has been hit 24 times in six games, the second-most of any B's forward. Leafs forward Matthew Knies has been tasked with a lot of that work. He has played the most 5-on-5 ice time (45:00) against Pastrnak of any Leafs player in the series, and the Bruins have scored only one goal during those minutes.

Pastrnak needs to shoot the puck more, too. He averaged 2.9 shots per game at 5-on-5 during the regular season. He's at 1.66 per game in this series. He tallied 2.89 points per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the regular season. He has dropped to 1.31 points per 60 minutes in the playoffs, per Natural Stat Trick.

Pastrnak had 11 shot attempts in Game 6 and only four (three at 5-on-5) were on target. Five of those attempts were blocked by the Leafs. He has scored just one goal with one power-play assist over the last four games. That's nowhere near good enough for a player of his caliber.

"We had plenty of opportunities to score. We need way more," Pastrnak told reporters after Game 6, per the NESN broadcast. "It's definitely not good enough of a job by our forward group, including myself, obviously, starting with me. We got one goal in (each of the last) two games. We need to be much better and create more offense."

Montgomery did make a good point about Pastrnak's linemates needing to be better.

Pavel Zacha has been Pastrnak's center most of the season, and he has played awful in this series. It's hard to create scoring chances when you can't possess the puck. How do you possess the puck? Winning faceoffs would be a good start, and Zacha has lost 22 of his 27 faceoffs the last two games, including a 1-for-10 showing in Game 6.

Auston Matthews took over Game 2 with a three-point night, including the game-winning goal in the third period. Brad Marchand put the Bruins on his back en route to victories in Games 3 and 4. William Nylander scored both of the Leafs' goals in Game 6. That's what great players do -- they take over games when their team needs it most.

It's not like Pastrnak is incapable of shining on this stage, either.

He's had plenty of stellar playoff performances in his career. He's actually scored in three of the five Game 7s he's played in, including each of the last two. The 27-year-old forward has the ability to dominate in clutch situations.

But we haven't seen that kind of signature moment or game from Pastrnak yet in Round 1. If it doesn't happen in Game 7, the Bruins' season likely will come to a disappointing conclusion yet again.

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