We are witnessing one of the greatest individual seasons in the history of the Boston Bruins courtesy of David Pastrnak.
The superstar right wing just wrapped up a three-game California road trip during which he just dominated all competition in front of him.
The Bruins won all three games to improve their record to a crazy 32-4-4 (68 points) with an 11-point lead over the next-closest team in the NHL standings.
Here's a look at Pastrnak's production on the trip:
- Jan. 5 at Kings: 2 G, 5 SOG
- Jan. 7 at Sharks: 2 G, 7 SOG
- Jan. 8 at Ducks: 3 G, 1 A, 8 SOG
Pastrnak's hat trick Sunday night versus the Ducks was a thing of beauty, capped off by a gorgeous move on a breakaway that put Boston up 4-1 in the second period. The pass up ice from defenseman Matt Grzelcyk was fantastic as well.
"I had some good looks. I was able to capitalize. Games like this are good," Pastrnak told reporters Sunday night after a 7-1 win over the Ducks. "Overall, an unbelievable (road) trip for us, let's go home now."
All three goals came in a different manner -- one-timer, wrist shot, breakaway -- showing off the full array of elite offensive talent Pastrnak brings to the ice each night.
"Elite. Creative. He's like an artist with the different ways he scores," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters postgame in Anaheim. "Everyone talks about the one-timers, but he scores off his front foot, back foot, backhand, fakes -- I would've broke my ankle if I was the goalie in net on that breakaway goal."
Pastrnak enters Monday with 32 goals and 26 assists for 58 points in 40 games. He's one goal behind Connor McDavid for the league lead. Boston's leading scorer is No. 3 in points and trails McDavid 18 -- no one is catching the Edmonton Oilers center, who has a ridiculous 76 points in 41 games.
Pastrnak is on pace to tally 118 points (65 goals, 53 assists) this season, assuming he plays all 82 games, and he's played in all 40 so far. Therefore, he's likely to become just the second Bruins player to hit the 100-point mark in the last 20 years, joining teammate Brad Marchand and his 100-point season in 2018-19. I
In fact, Pastrnak is on pace to have the second-best offensive season by a Bruins player since 1989-90.
Pastrnak shared the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2019-20 with Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin when they led the league with 48 goals. The B's forward has never scored 50 in a season, and barring some sort of injury or absence, he almost certainly will become the franchise's first 50-goal scorer since Cam Neely in 1993-94. The single-season goals record for the Bruins is 76 by Phil Esposito in 1970-71. He is the only player in team history to score 60-plus goals in a single season, and he did it four times during the 1970s. After Esposito left the Bruins in 1975, the highest single-season goals total for a B's player is Neely with 55 in 1989-90.
The biggest question with Pastrnak isn't so much about how many points he'll end up with. It's where will he be playing next season. The 26-year-old forward has an expiring contract and is able to become an unrestricted free agent in July. When asked in September if he was optimistic about working out a deal, Pastrnak replied, "Yeah, of course." We're now into January and there is no extension yet.
Pastrnak's agent, in comments to Steve Conroy of the Boston Herald earlier this month, shot down a recent report from WEEI's Rich Keefe that the B's and Pastrnak were "finalizing" an eight-year, $88 million deal.
That said, $11 million (or more) per season might be what it takes to get something completed. Just six players have a salary cap hit of $11 million or more, per CapFriendly, including Toronto Maple Leafs superstar center Auston Matthews, who is 24 years old. McDavid tops all players at $12.5 million. He is 25 years old.
- Connor McDavid, C, EDM: $12.5 million cap hit
- Artemi Panarin, LW, NYR: $11,642,857
- Auston Matthews, C, TOR: $11,640,250
- Erik Karlsson, D, SJS: $11,500,000
- John Tavares, C, TOR: $11,000,000
- Drew Doughty, D, LAK: $11,000,000
We also don't have a final salary cap number for the 2023-24 season. The current projection from the league is that it will rise by only $1 million, but it could go up more.
The Bruins absolutely have to re-sign Pastrnak. If that requires them to make him one of the three highest-paid players, then so be it. This franchise, especially with its lackluster prospect pool, cannot afford to lose Pastrnak. He is not only one of the very best players in the sport, he drives a significant amount of interest in the team from a marketing, attendance and revenue perspective.
He is a box office player and the Bruins must do everything possible to keep him in Boston for his entire career.