When you take a player in the first round of a draft, it’s a pretty safe assumption that player has the skills to make an impact. What’s much harder to quantify, however, is whether that player can put that skill set to use at the highest level when it means the most.
There are no such questions about Boston Bruins rookie forward Jake DeBrusk. At least not anymore, not after the No. 14 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft’s sensational performance in the Bruins’ first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
DeBrusk’s coming-out party hit its peak Wednesday night, as he scored two goals in a decisive Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the series, DeBrusk had five goals and two assists. On a team that features the likes of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, David Pastrnak, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Zdeno Chara, DeBrusk was the most consistent player in Black and Gold.
He never seemed afraid of the moment, yapping at any and all Leafs who gave him the time of day. When it mattered most, he took his game to another level.
“He’s … there’s something inside of him that not many guys have,” B’s defenseman Torey Krug told reporters after Game 7. ” … It’s … when he wants it, he’s going to get it, so he’s a great player for us.”
Don’t be surprised if DeBrusk ends up being the rock of the Bruins’ dynamic young core for years to come.
Here are a few other Game 7 thoughts.
Bruce Cassidy knows what he’s doing
All season long, even some of Cassidy’s seemingly head-scratching decisions paid off for the Bruins. So, maybe we shouldn’t have questioned the Jack Adams Award finalist’s decision to roll with what brought him to the dance Wednesday night. Some wondered why Cassidy wouldn’t insert Ryan Donato into the lineup, especially given Danton Heinen’s struggles in the series. Heinen and his line responded with their best game of the series, capped by the rookie’s first-period goal.
Tuukka Rask needs to be better if the Bruins are going to advance
Trying to pin the Bruins’ Game 7 issues solely on Rask is dumb. The four goals he allowed were at least somewhat excusable. The Bruins, who seemed allergic to the puck at times, also played a horrific second period. All of that being said: Rask wasn’t Cup-winning good in the first round. If Boston wants a deep run, it will need Rask at his best, similar to a nine-game run in the middle of the 2013 playoffs during which he posted a .959 save percentage. He has it in him, and the Bruins will need him to find it against the dangerous Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Bruins’ offense figured it out just in time
The Maple Leafs made it a point to block anything and everything off a Bruins stick in Games 5 and 6. Toronto blocked a ridiculous 45 shots in those two games.
Then, on Wednesday night, they blocked just 10.
So, what changed? The Bruins’ adjustments allowed them to find open shooting lanes, moving the puck in a more efficient manner and also getting pucks deep to apply pressure on Toronto.
There was no better example of this than Patrice Bergeron’s first-period goal. Bergeron did a great job of keeping the puck deep in the zone along the half-wall. David Backes then made a perfect cross-ice pass to Kevan Miller at the right point. Miller, seeing a closing James van Riemsdyk playing for the block (see below), shot the puck intentionally wide.
Realizing he couldn’t get to the front of the net, Bergeron slid behind the defense and was there to jam home the carom off the end boards.
If Miller tries shooting that puck on net, maybe van Riemsdyk blocks and gives Toronto a potential 2-on-1 going back the other way. Who knows?
On David Pastrnak’s third period goal, the Bruins’ top line got back on track by returning to the basics. They got the puck deep, and Marchand — who had a miserable first two periods — got in on the forecheck. Marchand muscled the puck away from Ron Hainsey, allowing Bergeron to center a pass in the slot to Pastrnak in the slot, who didn’t miss from there.
“They wanted to make plays; they got back to their nuts and bolts and how they can play. They can do it either way,” Cassidy said.
Also, full marks to Marchand getting net-front traffic on Krug’s goal to open the third.
Other random things
— Krug raises his offensive game in the playoffs. He tied for a team-high nine points in the first round and now has 25 points in 34 career playoff games.
— The Leafs were just called for another icing.
— This is wild.
— Zdeno Chara keeps going and going. The 41-year-old played a game-high 28 minutes, 38 seconds, the 42nd time in his career he’s eclipsed the 28-minute mark in a playoff game. He’s still strong as hell, too. Just ask Zach Hyman, who was scoop-slammed by Chara in front of the Bruins net midway through the third.
— Jake Gardiner was especially hard on himself after the game; the Leafs D-man was a minus-5. Ouch.
— Hockey players remain psychopaths. As NESN’s Jack Edwards mentioned, Toronto defenseman Morgan Rielly missed just 33 minutes in real time — including the intermission — after taking a Chara shot to the face.