No one could accuse Bruins coach Claude Julien of getting caught up in the hype of 2014 first-round pick David Pastrnak’s NHL debut on Monday.
Julien limited the rookie to 10 shifts for a total of 7:53 of ice time (6:32 even strength) in the Bruins’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.
Pastrnak was recalled for the first time this season from Providence of the American Hockey League on Sunday. Pastrnak was a point-per-game player for the P-Bruins when he got the call. Pastrnak started the night taking shifts with fellow rookie Alexander Khokhlachev and veteran Jordan Caron, but throughout the second half of the game he also saw time with Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Reilly Smith, Gregory Campbell and Daniel Paille. Late in the game, Pastrnak set up Marchand for a potential go-ahead scoring chance that went awry.
Julien liked what he saw from Pastrnak in the kid’s cameo.
“Well, we had to look at him, right?” Julien asked. “Plus, I thought he had good legs and so I put him on a couple lines here. And obviously you can see he’s a pretty dynamic player. He had that one shift with Bergy’s line; March and him had a real good shift there in the O zone. I liked his game. I know he probably didn’t get a ton of ice time, but when he was out there I liked what he did.”
Saying he didn’t get a ton of ice time is an understatement. But compared to his initial linemates, Khokhlachev and Caron, Pastrnak was overworked. Caron skated for 3:35 and Khokhlachev 2:53. Caron was recalled from Providence with Pastrnak and Khokhlachev was playing his third game since being recalled last Friday for a game against Columbus.
“Yeah, because, again – guess that’s coaching,” Julien said about his shortened bench. “That’s me coaching the way I felt I had to coach tonight.”
Khokhlachev’s ice time in particular was shockingly scarce considering the center played more than 12 minutes against Montreal on Saturday. Julien, however, didn’t have much of an explanation.
“It’s coaching,” he said.
The Bruins don’t play again until Friday against Winnipeg. So the veterans who played more minutes on what was basically a three-line team will have plenty of time to rest. But one has to wonder what kind of “a look” the Bruins really gave Pastrnak and Khokhlachev with that type of ice time. Improvement can only come from experience. An impact can only be made after an opportunity. It’ll be interesting to see if the Bruins give both those players more “a look” in the games ahead.