DETROIT, MI – It certainly felt like the ending for Jake DeBrusk and the Boston Bruins was going to be bittersweet at best at the end of this season.
Instead, the 25-year-old is proving that even a seemingly untenable situation where he demanded – and has not rescinded to this day – a trade away from the organization can become a workable situation if the determination is there. DeBrusk wasn’t dealt at the deadline as the Boston Bruins essentially stood pat at the forward position, a non-move that’s paid big Black and Gold dividends for both the talented winger and for No. 2 center Erik Haula.
DeBrusk may still be moved this summer, but for now he’s scored goals in five straight games and potted a pair – including the overtime game-winner – in the Boston Bruins 3-2 OT win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night at Nationwide Arena.
The play was started by Hampus Lindholm stealing a puck inside the blue line and moving to the net before feeding to DeBrusk, but the winger did the rest burying the shot past Elvis Merzlikins after reaching back for the puck.
Certainly, the offense has been welcome as DeBrusk scored his 20th goal of the season, marking the first time he’s hit that mark since 2018-19 when times were good between the first round pick and the Boston Bruins. It had been a tough couple of seasons for DeBrusk, but it’s hard to tell that now when he’s using his speed, shot and high-end offensive gifts to produce offense skating on the first line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand.
“That’s a point of emphasis to have production especially with the situation I’m in right now,” said DeBrusk, who hit the 20-goal mark for the second time in his career and first time since his high of 27 set in 2018-19.
“It’s nice to bury some opportunities. Got kind of lucky in this stretch. You need some lucky bounces to go your way. But anytime you can help contribute and help the team win, especially around this time of year – it’s the playoff push – it’s always really nice. It’s something that gives you confidence.”
Even more welcome than the offense, though, has been the complete buy-in from DeBrusk across the board. The flyby forecheck attempts are no longer commonplace, the engagement level has been raised and DeBrusk was even coming to the defense of Brad Marchand during a scrum with a pair of Blue Jackets players.
How on Earth did Brad Marchand get a matching minor penalty out of this? Terrible officiating pic.twitter.com/ujIpKbnnOI
— Joe Haggerty (@HackswithHaggs) April 5, 2022
“It was great to see him stick up for his teammate…that goes a long way, more than a goal will,” said Cassidy. “Trust me, we want the overtime goal, don’t get me wrong. But in terms of what you’re doing for your team and your team-building aspect, coming in and sticking up for your teammate, guys don’t forget that. They don’t forget that.
“When it’s your turn, it’s your turn. And he’s on that line. If someone goes after March or [Patrice Bergeron], whatever the case may be, he’s got to get in there and be a part of it. And he did, credit to him.”
What we’ve all seen lately is vintage DeBrusk from his first couple of seasons in the league when he was racking up big offensive numbers and building a reputation as a clutch player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“He did it years ago. I remember when those kids all came in, it was [DeBrusk], [Danton] Heinen, [Charlie] McAvoy, [Matt] Grzelcyk, I remember Gryz jumping in for McAvoy. [Pastrnak] has jumped in before in year’s past, so he certainly has done it,” said Cassidy. “I just see that his overall engagement has been terrific recently in every area of the game, defensively, on the penalty kill when we use him and obviously 5-on-5 he’s been scoring. We’ve seen Jake and [Craig] Smith get hot, so I think it’s just the overall engagement and that’s great.”
It’s impossible to know if this fire-in-the-belly DeBrusk is what the Boston Bruins will see in the playoffs, or what the future will hold for him after that even with a new two-year contract that potentially makes him a more attractive trade asset.
But it’s good to simply see DeBrusk look happy playing hockey again and for the Boston Bruins to be reaping those benefits, even if it becomes a short-term arrangement that’s best for all parties involved with a planned Stanley Cup run dead ahead of them.