David Pastrnak is ‘awake,' and that could spell trouble for the Maple Leafs

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TORONTO – David Pastrnak said that he’s “awake” after scoring his first two goals of the playoffs in Wednesday night’s Game 4 win, and that could mean big trouble for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Certainly it looks like he’s having fun again after not looking like his game-breaking self while being held scoreless in the first three games of the series.

“I didn’t really think much outside the room. Obviously [scoring goals] is how I help the team the most, so I was focusing and putting pressure on myself to help the team this way,” said Pastrnak. “It’s big for me. I feel relieved… and I’m awake. It’s fun when you start playing good, you know? It’s fun.

“I think [the line changes] sparked everybody and gave them a little bit of a different look. It was fun. I’ve played with Krejci a lot, so I know what to expect and we all know that [Danton Heinen] plays great with those guys. So it was good for us.”

Do you think Pastrnak is having fun now after he said it three times postgame in the span of about 30 seconds?

The 22-year-old Pastrnak is the key to everything for the Black and Gold in the playoffs against the Leafs based on the 13 points he racked up last spring in the first round, and based on his two second-period scores helping to lead the way to the 6-4 win over the Leafs at Scotiabank Arena.

It was all part of a big coaching move from Bruce Cassidy to shake things up just ahead of puck drop in Game 4 by switching Danton Heinen onto the top line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, and dropping Pastrnak down to the second line with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk. That unlocked the keys to the Pasta sports car and finally allowed him to join the series with the scoring binge in the second period.

“It was just moving Pasta around. He wasn’t on top of his game for whatever reason. Heinen has played with Marchand and Bergeron when Pasta missed his five weeks and he did a good job up there,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I’m not sure if Danton can do it every night against top lines and top D’s, but he certainly does a nice job in spots. Pasta and Krejci have played together, so it was just a different look.

“We’re just moving some pieces around and hopefully it gives us a spark. Maybe it makes them think. You never know if it might affect the way they do things. I don’t think it did because they just played their game. But we still got Pasta back with Bergeron and Marchand on the power play, and on a few 5-on-5 shifts. It certainly worked out for us tonight.”

It couldn’t have come at a better time either after Tuukka Rask allowed a soft goal just a minute into the second period to tie the game, and put the Bruins in some kind of jeopardy in a must-win playoff game. Instead Pastrnak redirected a Brad Marchand dish in transition past Freddie Andersen for the go-ahead goal, and then rifled a one-timer on the power play from a slick backhanded saucer pass from Marchand away from the side boards.

Just like that, Boston’s top offensive players were doing some damage again and the Bruins were in a position to even the series based on their top players stepping up at the exact right time. It was important to see Bergeron and Marchand clicking again in Game 4 at the right time, but the sluggish play of Pastrnak in the first few games was a developing storyline.

But that narrative disappeared in Game 4 with Pastrnak leading the Bruins with six shots on net, creating eight shot attempts overall and stirring the offensive drink like he was when he’s at his dynamic best at the offensive end.  

“He’s a guy we rely [on] to score and provide us with offense, and actually play a 200-foot game because he’s certainly capable of that,” said Cassidy. “Scorers when they don’t score can get antsy. I’m not sure David was there, but we wanted to keep them from going there. With the two goals, he gets recharged and we’re going to go through that with [Jake DeBrusk] now where we try to get him to where Pastrnak is right now. At the end of the day it’s good for the team and we need it.”

Whether it was lighting up the Leafs for five goals and 13 points in the first-round series last spring or dinging Toronto for six goals and nine points in regular season games this year, Pastrnak is the single most important offensive figure in this playoff series. Now that he’s “awake” it could change things drastically in favor of the Black and Gold with the Leafs and Bruins now wrapped in a best-of-three series to advance to the second round. 

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