John Tomase

Tomase: Bruins need Pastrnak to wake up from his disappearing act


The legendary NBC broadcaster Doc Emrick colorfully employed hundreds of ways to describe a moving puck. Rather than simply passed or cleared, they were scissored, saucered, spirited, shuffleboarded, skittered, soccered.

Emrick and his professorial vocabulary retired nearly three years ago, which is too bad, because I'd love to hear how he describes some of David Pastrnak's actions this postseason.

Words that spring to mind: excreted, indifferented, floundered, capitulated, vandalized, expectorated, aloofed.

Those aren't all technically verbs, but Pastrnak has willed them into existence through sheer lack of will.

While Bruins fans undoubtedly wish Boston could've sealed the deal in overtime of Wednesday's 4-3 loss to the Panthers, they should probably be thankful they hold a 3-2 lead, given Pastrnak's utter indifference and aloofness with the puck.

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The league's leading goal scorer, Pastrnak hasn't just pulled a disappearing act, but a disinterested one, too. One of the league's most unrepentant gunners as he drops to one knee and loads the cannon, Pastrnak is playing with a surprising lack of confidence, his body language hangdog and his skates coated in tar.

Pastrnak's play is making his flaws all the more glaring. We accept that he ranked among the league leaders in turnovers because that list is usually populated with goal scorers. They handle the puck a ton and gamble in search of brilliance. You take the bad with the good.

But even though he has scored twice, Pastrnak has been a menace of the self-sabotaging variety through five games.

On Wednesday night, critics rightfully focused on sloppy puck-handling around the Bruins net that led to the bookend Florida goals. But it's easy to miss that the first score actually started with what has become a staple of Pastrnak's series, a blind backhanded giveaway along the boards as he entered the Florida zone leading a 3 on 2.

The Panthers broke the other way, and 15 seconds later led 1-0 after Anthony Duclair potted a loose puck in front of a wooden Pastrnak, who didn't sign for $ 90 million because he's a gifted back-checker, but c'mon.

Pastrnak's deficiencies have been on display all series. He's not just loose with the puck, he's a jellyfish, floating wherever the tides take him and rarely acting with purpose. His go-to move all series has been the impossibly threaded pass that fails to breach the first line of defense, let alone the next two, as action breaks the other way.

Add a sudden propensity for missing the net -- four times on Wednesday -- and the 61-goal scorer has picked a bad time to go AWOL.

"The puck's not going in for him right now," head coach Jim Montgomery told reporters Wednesday. "It's just a matter of time. I thought he worked really hard. I thought he won a lot of battles. I thought he was more involved maybe than he was the first two games at home. It's just a matter of time. He's just too good."

On that count, we can all agree. As bad as Pastrnak has looked, he nearly won the game in overtime anyway, his something-out-of-nothing jackhammer from a bad angle trickling through Sergei Bobrovsky and just wide of the net.

The punishing one-timer off a banked pass from Pavel Zacha showed Pastrnak at his most creative and decisive, and the Bruins could really use that guy in Game 6, instead of the one who a period earlier had perplexingly yielded to Zacha on an even two-man rush.

The Bruins have already proven they can beat the Panthers without No. 88 playing at his best, especially with former MVP Taylor Hall picking up the slack, but why leave anything to chance? They're certainly going to need him down the line if they want to hoist another Cup.

Until then, we'll just have to hope he wakes up while wondering how many synonyms the great Doc Emrick could've conjured for "invisible."

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