We need to have a little conversation about David Pastrnak, because he is on the type of goal scoring run over the past few seasons that only the game’s most elite players are capable of achieving.
He finally made his 2020-21 season debut this past week for the Bruins and wasted no time making his presence felt.
Entering Friday’s game against the Flyers, he has already scored five goals, recorded seven total points, attempted 37 totals shots, and put 19 of those shot attempts on net.
He is only one goal off of the Bruins team lead even though he missed seven games, and over the past three games there is not another Bruins player who has attempted more than 22 shots or recorded more than 10 shots on goal.
Again, Pastrnak is at 37 and 19 in those two areas. Those are crazy numbers over three games.
Brad Marchand (two) is the only player that has more than one goal during that stretch. What makes Pastrnak’s early performance even more astonishing is that he stepped right into the lineup coming off of offseason surgery, probably still a little less than 100%, and immediately not only started to dominate, but has single-handedly carried the team’s offense in the games he has played.
[Roundtable: Biggest surprises, disappointments so far this season]
It is a continuation of the offensive dominance Pastrnak has displayed over the past two full seasons, a stretch where he has become a bonafide superstar level performer.
How good has he been?
Just consider that over his past 82 regular games played dating back to the end 2018-19 (the equivalent of a full season’s worth of games) he has scored 60 goals for the Bruins.
Keep in mind that over the past 23 seasons there have only been two 60-goal seasons in the NHL (Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08 and Steven Stamkos in 2011-12).
Since Stamkos’ performance, the only player who has had an 82-game stretch over multiple seasons where they scored more than 60 goals was Ovechkin with 67 from March 14, 2013 to March 5th, 2014.
The Bruins have had a lot of great players over the years, and especially over the past decade to help them reach three Stanley Cup Finals. But they have not had player like Pastrnak, or a player capable of what he is capable of doing, in decades. A player that can dominate offensively and challenge for the goal crown on what now appears to be a yearly basis.
Patrice Bergeron is great and their best overall player over the past 20 years. But his dominance is different. It is a quiet dominance where he controls the pace of the game and neutralizes the other team’s best player.
Zdeno Chara was the foundation of the defense for years and a dominant force on the blue line. But again, he controlled the game in a very different way.
Brad Marchand is great across the board, but he is probably not going to challenge for the Rocket Richard award or win a scoring title (even if he has come close).
Pastrnak could. And does.
[MORE: Your 2020-21 NHL on NBC TV schedule]
When he finished last season with a share of the NHL goal scoring lead with Ovechkin, Pastrnak became the first Bruins player to lead the league in that category since 1975 (Phil Esposito), which was also the last time they had a points leader (Bobby Orr).
Had he not missed the first seven games this season due to injury, he might have been a favorite to win it outright. And who knows, he still might.
Go back to the start of the 2018-19 season (through Thursday’s NHL action) and just look at where he ranks offensively across the league.
• Goals per game: .654 (first)
• Points per game: 1.32 (fourth)
• Shots per game: 3.83 (fifth)
• Shot attempts per 60 minutes: 22.2 (fourth)
• On-Ice shot attempt share: 55.2 (30th, out of more than 580)
Offensively speaking, he is as elite as a player can get in the NHL right now.
When you are putting together a list of the best, most productive players in the league you are going to have a very clear select few players at the top. Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl, and maybe even Artemi Panarin are going to be very high on such a ranking. And you can be sure that Pastrnak is going to be right there with them. Maybe not quite on the McDavid or MacKinnon level, but not far behind them, either.
Pastrnak is just now entering what should be his peak offensive seasons over the next couple of years (age 24-26) and if he continues on the trajectory he has established for himself the past two years he is going to have a chance to do things the Bruins have not seen in decades.
They were already winning games without him at the start of the season. Now that he is back in the lineup and playing like this they are going to be even tougher to beat.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.