The first game of the playoffs between the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs had to include a goal by #88. It had to be that way. And it went that way, during a well-deserved 5-1 Boston victory.
A formal NHL draft in 2014 changed everything for David Pastrnak, the new Czech kid on the block, who was selected in the first round, 25th overall. For the Boston Bruins, it meant a great add to the game-breaking ability they needed – and will always need.
Pastrnak is a man of his word. He kept a promise made to his father-coach who sadly passed away in 2013: he is now an NHL player.
His performance is not about extensive and effective leadership, high-impact body checks or becoming the leading top-scorer over players like Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby or Nikita Kucherov.
As a hockey player profiler, I call him a MOA: Master of Application.
If you wish to see real-life technical, physical, application of the sport, just watch Bruins’ David Pastrnak. No more, no less.
I always say that North American players are coached by passion for our national sport (in Canada) and hockey broad knowledge is always taught. But in my corner of the world, emotional-played remains the core of coaching. Hockey has to be a 60-minute intense, high-impact physical game, with kabooms along the boards, fast scorers and team building. Is North American coaching less customized to each player’s abilities? Good debate.
Foreign players, mostly in Europe and Russia, are coached differently: coaching is analytical, strategic, less oriented on the emotional/physical side of the game, with much more emphasis on hockey highly technical moves, passes and power skating. Most of my players improve these aspects during summer time in special schools, not because they receive bad or improper coaching, but the approach is different and they need to find and improve their specific player profile, their own personal physical and technical strengths.
Like so many other foreign players, Pastrnak had no problem incorporating the physical intensity of hockey into his play. In October 2016, he was suspended for 2 games after an illegal check to the head of New York Rangers’ Dan Girardi, without pay. Yes, he is highly technical, but can become wild and show his rough style.
Masters of application like Pastrnak strive on how they find ways to use their skills in a timely manner, no matter how the game develops or what the score is. Of course, they get emotional, physical when needed, but their main focus is to apply what is required of them and, like Bruins’ Brad Marchand once said about Pastrnak: ¨ He can make something out of nothing ¨.
Not too bad for a 21-year old kid who, very initially, just wants to play hockey.
He had only 34 penalty minutes last season (another aspect that shows his application spirit). Better play than lying in the penalty box. Believe me, masters of application leave that restraining and dull penalty bench to other highly emotional and impulsive teammates.
He spends long minutes on ice at each game and, like other MOAs, never complains that he is not enough used, misused or too used.
Another good element in Pastrnak’s application awards happened in 2015, when he became the first teenage player in Bruins’ history to score an overtime, game-winning goal in regular season (against the Caroline Hurricanes, 2-1 win).
On February 24, 2016, during a Bruins home game against Sidney Crosby’s Penguins, he became the youngest Bruins player ever to score a penalty shot goal only four minutes into the game, as the first goal to a 5–1 Bruins victory over the Penguins.
His interviews show even more his technical vision of the game. One morning on a road trip, he elaborated on what needs to be done to keep the momentum going: ¨ We got better. It starts with practice. We have more practices to go. Back with Providence (the Bruins development team), I learned more about American hockey. We must keep a high pace for 60-65 minutes and make something happen¨.
I thought a game was only 60 minutes. He proposes to be full throttle mode for 65 minutes. Now that’s a statement for genuine application.
Watch Pastrnak. He’s good at mastering hockey. Like I say to my MOAs: ¨ Success of your application is built on one thing: your ability to do better than just good enough ¨.