On Tuesday, Jake DeBrusk watched from the press box as the New York Islanders bested the Boston Bruins in a shoot-out. The healthy-scratch did not come as a surprise, as DeBrusk has really struggled to find his offensive touch this season.
After signing a 2 year, $7.35 million extension in the off-season, Bruins management wanted the 24-year-old to take the next step in his development. Instead, the winger regressed, producing just 1 goal and 4 assists through his first 17 games.
After Bruce Cassidy was brutally honest about DeBrusk’s play, the message was made clear. The winger had to get his game going soon.
On Thursday night, DeBrusk took out his pent-up frustration on the New York Rangers. In 21 shifts that amassed 15:48 on the ice, 74 in black and gold was jumping off the screen.
Just over 2 minutes into the game, DeBrusk led a rush up ice and fired the puck on the net. The attempt created a hot rebound that, fortunately for NY, Alexandar Georgiev skirted away from a net-driving David Krejci.
Later on in the period, after Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron linked up for a short-handed score, DeBrusk was trying to join the party. He made a slick move to get past K’Andre Miller. Then from one knee, he just missed by a hair connecting with Jack Studnicka for another shorty. DeBrusk posted 2:07 of short-handed time on ice, which was three seconds off from a career-high.
In the second period, the second line had found their touch. Krejci got off the schneid with a snipe on the power play, his first of the season. Then, after a brilliant stick lifts to pick Filip Chytil’s pocket, he found DeBrusk open in the slot. He promptly rifled home a one-timer for his second score of the season. Afterward, he looked to the Heavens with clenched fists, showing more relief than anything.
The Bruins got the 4-0 win and the second line of Krejci, DeBrusk, and Nick Ritchie had their best showing as a unit. But the focus for this group, especially DeBrusk, should be keeping up this level of play. So far in his young career, DeBrusk has been a maddening, streaky player.
In his rookie season of 2018, he put together a 6 game point-less streak in October but also added a run where he put up 12 points in 9 contests from late February to mid-March.
In January of 2019, he accumulated 4 points in 12 games. In February, DeBrusk responded with 13 points in 13 match-ups.
During the last 14 games of the 2020 regular season, he corralled 1 point. In the previous 14 contests leading up to that stretch, he accumulated 13 points.
Bruins coaches, management, and fans know the offensive talent the forward possesses. Unfortunately, they also know he tends to lose his rhythm for long stretches.
It is great that DeBrusk responded to his healthy-scratch with good effort and a goal. But now the key is to channel that fire into consistent production. And no one knows that better than him.
“I think the reason why I played that way tonight was because I was pissed off,” DeBrusk said during his post-game press conference. “I think I need to keep that. You know, obviously, the game is done. It’s all happy. It’s a different narrative because I scored. But, I’m keeping that. That’s not going away.”
Story by Chad Jones
Follow Chad on Twitter @shutupchadjones