Buckley: David Pastrnak saves Bruins in Game 7 and likely Jim Montgomery’s job

BOSTON — Before anybody even posed the question, Bruins coach Jim Montgomery went ahead and offered an instant analysis of his team’s upcoming second-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Florida Panthers.

“Now we have a real tough test coming ahead, we know that,” Montgomery said late Saturday night, this after his team’s pulsating 2-1 Game 7 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs at TD Garden. “We haven’t won anything yet.”

Of course. In terms of the big picture, nobody’s ever produced a documentary about a team that won its opening-round playoff series and then got whacked in Round 2. Every team’s goal, every year, is to win the Stanley Cup. They teach kids that in Mini Mites.

But let’s not mince words here: What the Bruins accomplished Saturday night may well have saved Montgomery’s job.


• In 2022-23, Montgomery’s first season in Boston, the Bruins amassed a Presidents’ Trophy 135 points, took a 3-1 series lead against Florida in the opening round of the Cup tourney … and then lost three straight games.

• In 2023-24, the Bruins had a post-Patrice Bergeron, post-David Krejci 47-20-15 (109 points) record, took a 3-1 series lead against Toronto in the opening round of the Cup tourney … annnnnnnnnnnnd for a few anxious moments Saturday night seemed headed for a third straight loss to the Leafs.

Such was the mood at 9:01 of the third period Saturday night when a William Nylander goal gave the Maple Leafs a 1-0 lead. Surely it was going to end badly for the Bruins, again, and then, following the customary day or three of finger-pointing and talk-radio hysteria, a news conference would be held to announce Montgomery’s dismissal, with the official statement decorated with the customary “mutual parting of ways” frosting.

For the record, those few anxious moments after Nylander’s goal lasted exactly one minute and 21 seconds. Hampus Lindholm’s tying goal at 10:22 made the Garden crowd very happy, but not nearly as when the Bruins won it at 1:54 of sudden death. And the scorer of that goal was … wait for it, wait for it … David Pastrnak!

montgomery.0504 scaled e1714891235629

Bruins coach Jim Montgomery speaks to the media after defeating the Maple Leafs in Game 7. (Bob DeChiara / USA Today)

It was Montgomery, you’ll remember, who did something a few days ago that was very common back in the 20th century but is more or less forbidden, in all of professional sportsdom, in the touchy-feely 21st century: He called out his top player. That being David Pastrnak.

Here’s what Montgomery said Thursday night in Toronto after the Bruins’ 2-1 Game 6 loss to the Maple Leafs: “Your best players need to be your best players this time of year. I think the effort is tremendous. They need to come through with some big-time plays and some big-time moments. (Brad) Marchand has done that in the series. Pasta needs to step up.”

If the Bruins lost Game 7, it would have been spun as a second straight first-round choke in Montgomery’s two seasons behind the bench. On top of that, an easy just-add-water subplot would have been that Montgomery had lost the room.

Kind of hard to float that one when the best player being called out supplies the goal that has sent the Bruins to the second round.

Montgomery delivered a rousing postgame speech to his players Saturday night. “He’s an incredible leader, because every word counts,” goaltender Jeremy Swayman said. “He thinks about what he says, and as a player listening to him you really want to play as hard as you possibly can.”

So, what did Montgomery tell ’em?

“I told them how proud I was,” Montgomery said.

He also told them this: “We’re a better team because of what we just went through.”

Montgomery’s personal run-up to Game 7 was to take a nap.

When did he wake up from that nap?

“I had nerves,” he said. “Because I didn’t know. You know? And then I went and hit golf balls in the backyard with my 12-year-old. And I just started teaching him and it made me think: This is what I love to do, right?”

Applying that reasoning to the Bruins, Montgomery said this: “That’s why I’m so proud of the group. Because they grew. You saw right from the beginning (of Game 7) that we were a different team.”

The Bruins were pretty good in the regular season. Despite some scary first-round hiccups, the Bruins escaped the ever-tortured Maple Leafs and advanced to the second round. Yes, there will continue to be a fringe element that believes Montgomery can’t take the Bruins deep. But he’s taken a lesser-talented team than last year’s and gone deeper, and, oh, by the way, it’s now impossible to criticize the coach for criticizing Pastrnak. That’s because Pastrnak won’t let you do that. He just won’t.

“Jimmy, you know, he said that stuff he did, after Game 6,” Pastrnak said. “And you know, I told him if I were the coach I would say the same thing. So I have no problem with him saying that. He’s trying to bring the best out of every single player.”

Again, Montgomery is correct: These Bruins have won nothing other than the right to play in the second round. But based on Saturday night’s Game 7, it’s safe to say Montgomery will still be around next year to make that speech all over again.

(Photo of David Pastrnak, left, celebrating with teammates after his overtime goal to win Game 7: Fred Kfoury III / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top