Jake DeBrusk learned that after Bruce Cassidy benched him during the first period of the Bruins-Sabres contest on Sunday in Boston’s final home game of the decade at TD Garden.
The 2015 first-round selection returned to his normal spot on the second line — and on the secondary power-play unit — at the start of the middle stanza. DeBrusk, who made his way to the bench for a good 12 minutes plus in the third, slowly put forth some quality shifts as time progressed.
Finally, DeBrusk broke through early in the third with a pair of power-play tallies just 18 seconds apart to give his team a 3-1 lead. The Bruins withstood Buffalo’s desperate surge in the final few minutes to secure the 3-2 victory.
“Well yeah, you want a response in some way, shape or form. Two goals is a good response. Go to the net, shoot the puck, get in the shooting lane when you need to, take a hit to get a puck out,” Cassidy said regarding DeBrusk. “There are details of the game that we expect and it’s a little bit about some of the message with some of these guys now that are in that.”
David Pastrnak netted his 29th goal of the season in the first and the Bruins defense — already without Torey Krug, Charlie McAvoy and losing Connor Clifton following an upper-body injury — held Jack Eichel and company in check, allowing 26 shots on Tuukka Rask.
Here’s what we learned following Boston’s home and home sweep with its Atlantic Division rivals.
Cassidy pushes the right buttons with DeBrusk, again
The fourth-year Bruins bench boss isn’t shy sitting anyone if needed. It doesn’t matter if it’s a talented goal-scorer like David Pastrnak or a veteran like David Backes, no Bruin is immune from Cassidy if and when he needs to send a message.
DeBrusk knows this well whether he’s sitting in the press box from a game or two, or finding himself demoted from the second line. In this case, he didn’t even skate on the third or fourth line following a sloppy first period. Instead, he sat on the bench watching as the Bruins fired a mere two shots on net — both coming after DeBrusk’s last shift — in the opening 20 minutes.
The Edmonton-born winger tends to respond well whenever Cassidy sits him. He did so again on Sunday with his two quick third-period power-play tallies — one coming on a tip of Steven Kampfer’s shot from the point, the other via a bad angle shot.
“There are lots of emotions going on,” DeBrusk said about the benching. “Obviously you carry pride a lot of pride with yourself. It’s one of those things where…I’ve kind of been in this situation before. It’s one of those things that you never want to happen as a player, but usually, I respond pretty well. So it was nice to get the two goals there, and it was the best way to help the team out.”
Of course, everyone responds differently to Cassidy’s message. But very few of his players took the message personally.
Cassidy’s demeanor resonates throughout the locker room. It’s been a testament to his coaching style and success through his four seasons behind the Boston bench.
“When they stop responding, I’m probably out the door. That’s probably what happens with a lot of coaches,” Cassidy said. “I’ll be perfectly honest with you: you have to find a different way to send your message. Right now, they have responded…as long as it’s not personal and you’re trying to get them to play the right way, I think the guys will back you up on it. I really believe that.”
“I understand that there’s a message being sent,” DeBrusk added. “He obviously wants what’s best and more for me. Whether that’s blocking a shot or just overall play you have a lot of time to think about certain things. So it’s just about keeping it monotone as possible and just trying to stay within yourself and do anything on the ice to score a goal. That’s the best way to respond, I guess, and I was lucky enough to get two.”
DeBrusk didn’t block a shot prior to his benching midway through the first period. The Bruins’ blue-liners must have received that memo as well.
Shorthanded Bruins D perseveres
Without Krug and McAvoy, the Bruins missed their two best puck-moving defensemen. They didn’t have the crisp transition game and outlet passes without a pair of their speedy and talented stalwarts on the back end.
But the Bruins more than made up for it. Brandon Carlo filled McAvoy’s role admirably next to Zdeno Chara. Clifton, Matt Grzelcyk, John Moore and Steven Kampfer didn’t look out of place either in Krug and McAvoy’s absence.
It wasn’t all perfect on Sunday, just two days removed from Jaroslav Halak’s shutout in Buffalo. Zdeno Chara deflected Rasmus Ristolainen’s shot past Rask on an accidental blunder in the second period. Curtis Lazar found inside positioning near the crease in the third following DeBrusk’s pair to cut Boston’s lead to 3-2 in the third.
But without Krug and McAvoy and later Clifton following his upper-body injury, the Bruins D stood tall, in particular during the final moments in regulation.
The Sabres had a late chance with the man advantage and a lengthy sequence with Linus Ulmark pulled for the extra attacker. But the Bruins disrupted the shooting lanes and kept a desperate Buffalo bunch to the perimeter, preventing them from generating quality scoring chances to secure the victory.
“I think, as the game went on that when Cliffy [Clifford] was out, we had to manage the puck better as well,” Cassidy said.
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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