He has been one of the more prolific Bruins forwards through the first six games against the Maple Leafs. But Game 7, indeed, was Jake DeBrusk’s coming out party.
The talented Bruins rookie winger, who notched five points (three goals, two assists) in his first six career postseason contests, proved that no moment was too big for him in Game 7. All he did was score a pair of goals, including the go-ahead tally in the third period, en route to Boston’s series-clinching victory over its Original Six rivals.
“It went pretty well, obviously with the win, it was special – something I’ll never forget,” DeBrusk said about his first Game 7 experience following the Bruins’ 7-4 victory at TD Garden. “I’ll never forget this series just in general. First playoffs and I was really happy to contribute and obviously tonight with the home crowd here too, and how the game was going it was back and forth and emotions were pretty crazy but insane that it was nice to get on the board and it was nice to help the team win.”
Nor will DeBruk’s teammates, coaches and loyal 17,565 supporters on Causeway Street forget Wednesday night.
No goal was more special than his 4-on-4 go-ahead goal at 5:25 of the final stanza. Much like he’s done all season, DeBrusk drove hard to the net from David Krejci in the neutral zone — speeding past Jake Gardiner — and beat Frederik Andersen five-hole to give the Black and Gold the lead for good.
“Yeah, I just – I think it was four-on-four, I believe, and I don’t get out there for four-on-four too much so I just went to the net and kind of caught their defenseman off guard right away with just my speed,” DeBrusk said about his second goal of the night, “and then I tried to make a move and actually tried to raise it, and I didn’t even see it go in. I just heard the crowd go pretty nuts, and it was a very special feeling, especially making it five-four at that point. And I knew as soon as we got the lead there the next goal, we’re going to be fine, and it was very special.”
Torey Krug’s tying goal just 70 seconds into the third got the Bruins energized. DeBrusk’s go-ahead tally put that increased energy into overdrive.
“It was incredible. He has been a big player for our team all year,” Brad Marchand, who put things out of reach with the empty-netter, said about DeBrusk. “You could tell he was feeling it tonight – all series actually – he was a big player for us. When he got that speed going, he can be very dangerous with that puck, so beautiful goal by him, incredible game, and he stepped up big for our team.”
That grimy goal is just one of DeBrusk’s trademarks that general manager Don Sweeney loved when he selected him 14th overall in his first NHL Draft back in 2015. DeBrusk’s selection was quite the head-scratcher at the time for Bruins fans, who were hoping for a big splash from their then-first year GM.
Well, Sweeney was on to something. DeBrusk came as advertised, as Bruce Cassidy alluded to during his postgame press conference.
“He’s around the net. He got a shot through the other night in Toronto, but the other ones here, he’s been real greasy, as advertised,” Cassidy said. “And, he had his legs the whole series.”
Like any rookie, DeBrusk went through his share of peaks and valleys during the regular season. But, like most Bruins rookies — including Danton Heinen, who tallied his first postseason goal after his healthy scratch in Game 6 — DeBrusk responded after watching from the press box against this same Leafs squad in early-November.
Since then, DeBrusk has become a regular fixture on the second line with David Krejci, leading to a 43-point campaign (17 goals, 26 assists). DeBrusk’s improved fundamentals with and without the puck have led to more consistent performances. His Game 7 performance was a microcosm of how far he’s come since that healthy scratch during the second month of the season.
“Yeah, he’s been unbelievable – second half of the year especially and this series he’s been lights-out,” Heinen said about his fellow rookie. “So, it’s super fun to watch, and he’s a hell of a player and a great guy.”
“In [the] playoff[s] he’s been big every single game,” Krejci said about his fellow linemate. “Tonight in Game 7 — it’s not an easy task to ask — but he scored two big goals. So we’re just really happy for him.”
“The issue we had with Jake during the year was that consistent push, use your legs, use your feet because he’s young and he’s got them. He can really get on pucks and make people uncomfortable, so I was happy for him,” Cassidy added. “He’s a good kid, he’s worked hard, and he’s really contributing for us.”
DeBrusk’s character and work ethic are worthy of such praise from his fellow teammates. His father, Louie, wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
“I’m going through the gauntlet right now — it’s actually been kind of crazy,” DeBrusk said about whether or not he heard from his father immediately after the game, “but I’ll be sure to see a couple text messages, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps the former enforcer even shed a tear or two for his son, much like he did on opening night.