TORONTO — Jake DeBrusk never witnessed severe heckling prior to last year’s first-round series. But his feud with Nazem Kadri that ended with the enigmatic winger serving a five-game suspension for a cheap shot to the head in Game 2 put DeBrusk into an unusual spot.
The heckling — and, worse, death threats — prompted DeBrusk to temporarily delete his social media accounts. The Bruins supported DeBrusk and his family during his hectic April.
Here we are in the third week of the season. DeBrusk already saw Kadri once after the Leafs shipped the veteran — along with depth defenseman Calle Roosen and a 2020 third-round draft pick — to Colorado in exchange for defenseman Tyson Barrie and former Harvard standout Alex Kerfoot. And now, DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins await the Leafs in their first matchup since their latest Game 7 showdown.
“There’s definitely a different tone to it. I feel that the playoffs are definitely are a little more intense, but it’s a new year and I’m excited to go back on the ice,” DeBrusk said about Boston’s first matchup of the season against its Original Six rivals.
“Obviously I know that I need to play better myself, but I know this [Maple Leafs] team and I know what they can bring and they know us. So it’s going to be a tough task, but I’m just looking forward to getting out there.”
A new season and a new chapter of the Bruins-Leafs rivalry presents plenty of potential material.
DeBrusk, as he alluded to, hasn’t gotten off to the best start in 2019-20. The talented 2015 first-round selection has just one assist in seven games.
His game dipped in the 22 games following the Kadri incident, tallying a mere four goals and six assists in that span. That one assists this season puts him at 11 points over the last 29 regular season and playoff tilts.
DeBrusk isn’t alone. The Bruins’ secondary scoring woes lingered into the new season. The potent top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak notched 14 of the team’s 19 goals this season.
The Bruins, sitting with a 5-1-1 mark (11 points) entering Saturday’s tilt at Scotiabank Arena, know they need more production out of their second, third and fourth lines — especially at even strength — against a skilled Leafs bunch sans John Tavares (out for at least two weeks with a broken finger). DeBrusk hopes to help that cause and simultaneously snap his slump dating back to mid-April.
“I just think our five-on-five scoring overall hasn’t been where we want it to be,” DeBrusk said. “I like our record right now. Obviously we think it could be better, but that’s what the [regular] season is all about — to try and build on certain things and try to find consistency throughout the lineup. Obviously our top line does a lot of damage and it would be nice for myself and our secondary scoring can help out a little bit.”
DeBrusk isn’t immune to slow starts. He only lit the lamp twice in 10 October tilts during his 2017-18 rookie campaign and three times during the first 12 games to start last season.
The Bruins only have four more October games following Saturday. DeBrusk hopes to buck that slow start trend in his first visit to Toronto since being public enemy No. 1 in April.
Tim Rosenthal serves as the Managing Editor of Bruins Daily. He started contributing videos to the site in 2010 before fully coming on board during the Bruins' Stanley Cup run in 2011. His bylines over the last decade have been featured on Boston.com, FoxSports.com, College Hockey News, Patch and Inside Hockey. You can follow Tim on Twitter @_TimRosenthal.
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