The Boston Bruins are peaking at the right time. They’re in midst of one of their best stretches of the season and are playing as good of hockey as anyone in the league.
Bruce Cassidy’s squad has earned points in each of the last 15 games. The Bruins dismantled the San Jose Sharks and Tampa Bay Lightning — two of the league’s top four teams — by a combined 8-2 margin and outshot them 73-41 to kick off their six-game homestand. And all without David Pastrnak.
So how has Boston flourished with its leading goal scorer sidelined?
It’s simple, everyone else — in particular Jake DeBrusk — has stepped up.
The high-flying winger has been on an absolute tear as of late scoring in seven of his last eight games. Since making the transition back to the left wing, DeBrusk has changed his game completely and is improving every shift.
He has 21 goals this season, but DeBrusk’s impact goes beyond the scoresheet. His energy and his play away from the puck provides the Bruins with a much-needed boost in Pastrnak’s absence. The Edmonton native isn’t shy about celebrating and his teammates certainly feed off of that.
“Energetic, his legs are there. You can see it. He’s winning foot races on a regular basis, and right now there’s not many guys that can catch once that puck goes one way if they haven’t already started. He’s getting by them. His breakaway was a good example of that. He gets a little bit of a step and guy has to pivot. He’s gone. He’s going to the dirty areas, and his overall game is better,” Cassidy said about the 21-year-old.
“As a coach, I want to see him grow his game. That’s part of the process for these young guys, and if you want to win in the long run, you’re not going to score in seven in eight games when you’re playing in those tighter games, and you still have to bring that other stuff. That’s the message I hope Jake is getting out of this too, that he’s delivering in other areas.”
Yet, things haven’t always come easy for DeBrusk this season. The 2015 first round pick went over a calendar month without scoring a goal at the turn of the calendar year. It even got to the point where he admitted embarrassment during his worst slump of the season.
But DeBrusk turned things around. He isn’t forcing the issue by any means. He’s keeping things simple and making plays that opposing defenses give him. As a result, DeBrusk has caught fire and continues to send the Causeway Street crowd into a frenzy with his spirited celebrations.
DeBrusk tallied the opening goal in Boston’s 4-1 rout over the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. He’s scoring in a variety of ways and is getting some fortunate bounces along the way as seen with his 21st goal of the season.
“Compared to what it was before, I’m just getting some nice bounces right now — it went off the defenseman’s stick into the net — also some great passes,” DeBrusk said. “So I’m just trying to continue to execute and try to put that puck in the net as much as possible.”
Boston’s new look lineup clicked on all cylinders during the month of February. DeBrusk has been at the heart of the balanced attack.
Pastrnak, of course, makes the Bruins a better team. DeBrusk and company are showcasing that they can win without him. They’ll remain a dangerous bunch if the balanced scoring continues upon Pastrnak’s return.
Matt is a recent graduate from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in sports journalism and a minor in business. He currently reports on the Boston Bruins and writes featured stories and game recaps for both Bruins Daily and Boston.com
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