David Pastrnak followed Brad Marchand's advice all the way to a career year.
Many years ago, not long after Pastrnak entered the NHL in 2014-15, Marchand told his Boston Bruins teammate, “You have to always aim 10 goals higher than you think you can get.”
Pastrnak did just that, shooting for 60 goals this season. He knew 50 was a possibility, then on Sunday racked up a hat trick to reach 60 for the first time — the latest highlight in a stretch that has seen him carry the Bruins to the top of the league and the single-season wins record.
“Wasn’t really thinking I would get there,” Pastrnak said, acknowledging it wasn't for lack of belief. “I know what kind of player I am in this league right now, and I came really close before COVID, so I knew I could do it. That helps with your mindset.”
Three years after the pandemic halted his pursuit of 50 goals just shy at 48, Pastrnak joined Connor McDavid at the 60 mark. It's the first time two players have reached 60 goals in the same season since Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr in 1995-96 — and it has been 30 years since two players on different teams have done it.
When Pastrnak finished off his three-goal game to get to 60, hats rained down in Philadelphia from the many Bruins fans in attendance who saluted the team for picking up its record-setting 63rd victory of the season.
It was only fitting that Pastrnak helped Boston make history while he was making his own.
“It’s been a lot of fun, I’m not going to lie,” he said. “It’s definitely special to hit it in a game like this.”
The Czech winger almost certainly will lose out to McDavid for the Hart Trophy as league MVP, but that's not taking away the Bruins' appreciation of what Pastrnak has accomplished so far. Coach Jim Montgomery said Pastrnak reached this milestone because of a combination of confidence, creativity and competitiveness.
“Those three C's exude from him,” Montgomery said. “And then you combine that with an attitude of he’s a team-first guy and he cares about and loves (playing for the Bruins).”
Good thing, too, because he's not going anywhere. Boston last month signed Pastrnak to a $90 million, eight-year contract through 2031 — the sixth-richest deal in NHL history.
Pastrnak during contract negotiations thought about how amazing it would be to play his career with one team, something that's becoming increasingly rare in a salary cap league. With that and the 60-goal mark now behind him, he and the Bruins, who have led the NHL all season, are turning their attention to the playoffs and the pursuit of the franchise's first Stanley Cup championship since 2011.
“Our focus each day is to get better each game and get prepared for playoffs,” Pastrnak said. "Obviously the record is amazing, but we’re building toward something bigger than the NHL record. That’s our focus.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno