SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A Boston-based sports team watching a leprechaun fall on his head would normally seem like a disconcerting harbinger. But the Bruins won Tuesday’s Winter Classic at Notre Dame against the Chicago Blackhawks, and they greeted the Fighting Irish mascot’s pregame tumble to the ice with stick taps of equal parts encouragement and sarcasm.
What did David Pastrnak think of the leprechaun falling?
“I don’t know what leprechaun is,” the Bruins winger said.
You know, the guy in green.
Pastrnak laughed, in the infectious manner that he does. “Oh, it was tough. Everybody give him a little stick tap.”
But it’s been a season with few stumbles for Pastrnak. The 22-year-old Czech winger is on a 100-point pace, with 50 points in his first 40 games of 2018-19. That ranks him tied for fourth in goals and alone in eighth in points. He added two to that total in the Classic, where he assisted on Patrice Bergeron‘s power-play goal and scored one of his own, his 24th of the season.
It’s what came after the goal that had the Bruins locker room buzzing after the game.
Pastrnak snapped a shot past Cam Ward of the Blackhawks at 12:38 of the first period. He then skated toward the boards and appeared to flap his arms.
Was this some kind of hawk imitation, after scoring against Chicago? Was it an Evgeny Kuznetsov “bird walk” celebration homage?
No. It was Pastrnak attempting to mimic LeBron James, but “it didn’t work,” he said.
“I do that when we’re warming off the ice sometimes, when we’re playing two-touch and stuff,” Pastrnak said of the Bruins’ soccer ball game. “I didn’t know how it was going to come off on the ice.”
Pastrnak said he was too tentative. “You definitely don’t want to toe-pick on the ice after you score, so you have to watch out for that as well.”
Like Marchand, coach Bruce Cassidy was also initially confused. “I don’t know where that came from,” Cassidy admitted before being told the inspiration behind the celebration. “Oh, LeBron? I gotta pay more attention to basketball, obviously. I follow the Celtics, obviously. He had his thing. Good for him. I’m glad he had a chance to do it.”
Truth be told, Cassidy expected he might earn that chance. It was Pastrnak’s first outdoor hockey game in the NHL, in front of 76,126 fans. The stage was set for him. “Pasta is an all-world personality, so I think he gets up for any type of game that means a little bit more,” said the coach.
Pastrnak said he was excited all morning leading up to faceoff, “and it just transferred to the game.” Part of that excitement was knowing that the Winter Classic would be televised back in the Czech Republic.
“It’s awesome. Especially because it’s an early game. It’s all over Europe. I remember watching it. It’s always a little … uh … I don’t know what the word is. Like trying to show yourself,” he said.
The Bruins aren’t short on personality. Witness their “Peaky Blinders” tribute at the Winter Classic, in which the players cosplayed as 1919 English gangsters. (Bergeron said the idea was born during a Halloween party, when several Boston players showed up in the garb.) Witness players like Marchand, Jake DeBrusk and others.
And witness Pastrnak at the Winter Classic. The guy with the “pasta” emoji on his new sticks, hand-delivered by Bauer for the game. The guy who put on eye-black because all the other Bruins did, and admitted “I don’t even know what it was for because the sun wasn’t even there.” The guy who scored a hockey goal and wanted to celebrate like a basketball player.
The guy who, thanks to the Winter Classic, finally knows what a leprechaun is.