The 49-year rematch between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues is two days away from reality. And what better place to begin the series than at TD Garden, where Bobby Orr’s iconic statue stands outside the building.
Hidden in the plethora of storylines of Orr, David Backes playing against his former team and a resurgent St. Louis bunch — turning its season after sitting dead last in the NHL on Jan. 3 — is the potential Stanley Cup x-factor.
That difference maker is none other than second-year forward Jake DeBrusk.
“Feeling better. I think personally anytime I get rested I think it helps me,” DeBrusk said about the 11-day layover. “Just anxious to get on the ice. We all want to get started.”
DeBrusk’s offensive production has dipped from his postseason debut a year ago where he lit up the Maple Leafs in Round 1. The Edmonton-born forward enters the Stanley Cup Final having tallied just seven points (three goals, four assists) in 17 games.
But DeBrusk is finding other ways to produce. Keeping pucks alive, setting the forecheck and helping out on the defensive end are a few things that have stood out in his game over the course of the playoffs.
According to head coach Bruce Cassidy, this could be the series where the youngster finally breaks through.
“I think it’s an important series for him. I don’t want to judge him up until now. We are in the Stanley Cup Final so everyone is pulling their weight,” Bruce Cassidy said about DeBrusk’s postseason production.
“Would his numbers look better if he had six or seven goals? Absolutely, but we’ve gotten timely offense out of him. But I think this is a series that we’ll need a little more from him. There’s an opportunity there for him to be a difference maker if it sets up. Hopefully, that’s the mindset he has going in.”
The 2015 first rounder set a new career high of 27 goals during the regular season. His rare combination of speed and strength allows him to generate chances with a strong net-front presence.
DeBrusk found himself against an aggressive defensive system during the first three rounds against Toronto, Columbus and Carolina. The plethora of talented blue-liners the Bruins went up against proved tough for DeBrusk as the likes of Seth Jones, Zach Werenski, Morgan Reilly and Jaccob Slavin cut him off at the point of attack before he could even get a full head of steam.
This series might be different, however. St. Louis’ defense – led by Joel Edmunson and Alex Pietrangelo – aren’t as aggressive on the blue line. That falls right into DeBrusk’s hands.
“This could be a good series for him,” Cassidy said. “You’ve got to get inside and you’ve got to use pace. I’m not sure they’re as fluid on their skates as Carolina, but they are edgier. So I suspect a guy like Jake — if he is willing to get inside with his foot speed — he can separate from these guys.”
DeBrusk made a name for himself last postseason and he has yet another opportunity to cement his name into Bruins lore with a strong Stanley Cup Final performance.
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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