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Everybody Loves Pasta: David Pastrnak Is Scoring Goals for Fun

The Bruins’ charismatic Czech leads the NHL in goals and in enlightening entertainment

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

There are all kinds of options for self-care these days. You can go for a walk in the woods to hear the birds chirp; you can remain right at your desk and stream ASMR. You can close your eyes and sit back in the massage chair at the nail salon; you can keep them open and sit back in the driver’s seat as you roll through a gas station car wash. You can chant mantras or count breaths or straight up treat yo’self with retail therapy. But if gentle enlightenment is what you’re after, if deeply restorative joy is what you seek, there is one true path: Take the 11 or so minutes to watch this YouTube video of Boston Bruins forward and NHL leading goal scorer David Pastrnak’s “best off-ice moments,” a compilation as pure as a freshly Zamboni’d rink.

Pastrnak, 23, was born in the Czech Republic and spent several years in Sweden playing hockey before making his NHL debut in 2014. He looks kind of like a cross between Theon Greyjoy and Thor; he acts kind of like a cross between Charlie Bucket and Matthew McConaughey. When he skates with little kids, he becomes one himself. When he speaks, it is with a twinkle in his eye and a bunch of chips in his front teeth. When he tweets, it is to heckle Justin Bieber.

He starred in a surprisingly not-annoying Dunkin Donuts commercial last season, managing to imbue the phrase: “Hey ref, check your voicemail, you missed some calls!” with affable charm. He walked around Shanghai on ice skates during one visit and got a piggyback ride from Brad Marchand on the Great Wall during another. (One of Pastrnak’s endorsements is a Chinese “sweet milk for kids,” after he was noticed by a foreign businessman both for his skill and for his lucky number, 88.) He wears suits that look like windowpanes, or confetti, or upholstery, or salmon. And when he suits up for the Bruins, who selected him as a late-first-round pick, he is one of the top players in the whole National Hockey League.

In 18 games this season, Pastrnak has already racked up 16 goals, leading all NHL players. In one mid-October game, against Anaheim, he scored four times, the start of a three-week stretch when he lit the lamp in every game he played. (OK, that’s not technically true: There was one night, on October 27 against the Rangers, that Pastrnak didn’t score any goals. He just casually finished with five assists instead.)

Pastrnak plays on a line with Bruins lifers Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand (a trio that makes for a real festival of phonics when spoken in NESN color commentator Andy Brickley’s Boston accent.) He crashes the crease yet also seems to be constantly available for a midrange one-timer, setting up shop like Alex Ovechkin or Steven Stamkos. On odd-man rushes, he may deke, dodge ’n’ dish, like a basketball player driving the lane, or he may take and make the no-look big shot himself. Either way, it has tended to work out for him this season in a big way.

While Pastrnak’s recent play has garnered new attention, it isn’t even really a breakout year for him; he’s been showing signs of his talent for a while now. In September 2017, on the heels of his first 70-point season (his previous totals were 27 and 26 points) the Bruins signed Pastrnak to a six-year, $40 million deal that was a small risk at the time but has since paid off handsomely for the franchise. Last season, Pastrnak was on pace to break 40 goals for the first time in his career when a weird thumb injury following a team dinner sidelined him for weeks. When he returned, he contributed nine goals and 10 assists in 24 playoff games, yet he was mildly dogged for not contributing quite enough as the Bruins fell short in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup final to the St. Louis Blues this spring.

“David Pastrnak leaves Bruins wanting more,” said the Boston Herald. “What can the Bruins do about their David Pastrnak problem?” a 98.5 Sports Hub writer asked.

Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak at the Great Wall of China
NHLI via Getty Images

The problem, though, was partly that Pastrnak’s own bar was such a high one: In the 2018 playoffs, for example, he scored a hat trick and added three assists in Game 2 between the Bruins and one of their biggest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Which was fitting: One of the best things about the Pastrnak era has been his play against Toronto. One of Pastrnak’s best friends is a Leaf; he and William Nylander played together as tweens in Sweden and remain super close. Still, there’s no love lost between their respective teams, whose rivalry of late has been deepening, and who face each other for the third time this season on Friday night.

In their first meeting, Pastrnak tied the game at 3, finished with a goal and an assist, and inspired Jack Edwards to say, of his line: “The magical combination delivers again!” Boston lost that game in overtime, but three days later, Pastrnak scored another goal and an assist in a Bruins win, and it was hard to determine which of his points was more delightful and absurd.

On the power play early in the first period, he scored his 300th career point with some backward between-his-legs magic; a Leafs fan in the crowd was caught on video by the broadcast saying: “whoooaa.” What he did next was just as audacious: After digging out the puck behind the Toronto net, Pastrnak skated up the boards past Toronto wunderkind Auston Matthews, took a quick glance over his shoulder, and then somehow blindly found a streaking Marchand with a cross-ice pass that evaded various sticks and skates and found its target cleanly, like a perfect stroke in putt-putt rolling past the windmills and toward the hole. (Come to think of it, footage of Pastrnak playing putt-putt would fit really well in that earlier video of him merrily doing off-ice things.)

The Bruins this season are out to avenge the way the Cup final ended; at 11-3-4, the team currently leads the Atlantic Division. They are a team stocked with grizzled vets but also well-positioned for the future with young 20-somethings like Pastrnak and Sean Kuraly as well as defensemen Charlie McAvoy, 21, and Brandon Carlo, 22. And for the Bruins, Pastrnak’s contract is one of the league’s great values. He makes $6.67 million a season through 2023, less than 73 other players in the NHL, none of whom are currently the goal-scoring leader, and very few of whom would likely react the way Pastrnak recently did when some rando kid in a hurry crashed his car into the player’s Porsche. Pastrnak got out and posed for a smiling photo with the wayward driver, who then excitedly texted the photo to his dad. You never think that when you cause a car accident you’ll wind up having a pretty rad day. But that’s the Pastrnak experience, and the Pastrnak enlightenment that we all ought to seek.