Amid the biggest news on Wednesday night in Boston with the trade for Charlie Coyle, the Boston Bruins completed their west coast road trip with a 3-2 shootout win over the Vegas Golden Knights, and for the fifth game in a row, Jake DeBrusk lit the lamp.
Since David Pastrnak went down with a thumb injury on Feb. 12 and was ruled out two to three weeks, DeBrusk has picked up his offensive pace. In the five games that the team has been without Pastrnak, DeBrusk has five goals and five assists, including two three-point performances against the Chicago Blackhawks on Feb. 12 and then against the San Jose Sharks on Feb. 18.
Two nights ago, DeBrusk opened the scoring in the first period with a spin move around Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore and fired it past Marc-Andre Fleury for his 19th goal on the season.
— NHL (@NHL) February 21, 2019
“It’s pure luck, to be honest with you,” said DeBrusk, who also netted a nasty top-shelf marker in the first round of the shootout. “I didn’t really know what I was doing. I tried to do what I did…I didn’t try to do the 360 and turn, but I tried to get to my forehand at least. You understand you don’t have that much time, but tried to elevate it and I just heard the bar.”
Not only did he finish off that pretty play, but he also was one of only two Bruins to score in the shootout. Coming down the left side, he patiently waited for Fleury’s blocker to drop and he went top shelf over him. This helped the Bruins seal the shootout win.
Boston is enjoying a seven-game winning streak, their longest in five years. They’ve moved into second place in the Atlantic Division with 80 points, four points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs. While catching the Tampa Bay Lightning (96) seems unlikely at this point, the Bruins can set themselves up with the prime No. 2 spot in the Atlantic if they continue this play down the stretch.
DeBrusk’s Production is Coming at the Perfect Time
Before Pastrnak went down with the injury, DeBrusk had not scored since Jan. 8 against the Minnesota Wild, going 13 games without a goal and contributing only two assists during that span, as well. After a very solid rookie season in which he scored 16 goals, 27 assists and 43 points, it seemed like production was trailing off in his second season. He’s now proving that isn’t the case and he couldn’t have picked a better time to do it.
The Bruins have extended their winning streak to seven and a major part of that has been secondary scoring. The first line of Pastrnak, Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron has combined for 76 of the team’s 182 goals this season, roughly 48 percent. During the last five games, Marchand and Bergeron have combined to score four of the team’s 22 goals (18 percent), so it’s primarily lines two through four that have been getting the job done.
DeBrusk’s Net-Front Presence Adding to the Power Play
With Pastrnak out, the first power-play unit was left without its top power-play goal scorer. DeBrusk was promoted to fill in on the unit with Marchand, Bergeron, David Krejci and Torey Krug, and while he’s being placed in front of the net rather than an outside slot option as a shooter like Pastrnak is, he hasn’t disappointed.
In his first game on that top unit against the Blackhawks, he won a battle down low that opened an opportunity for Bergeron to find Krejci across the slot for a one-timer that tied the game 1-1 in the first period. Then, in the second period, he planted himself in front of the net and redirected a pass from Krejci to put the Bruins up 4-1. While it didn’t count as a power-play goal since the penalty had just expired, it was created because of the power-play unit and DeBrusk getting to the net.
— NHL (@NHL) February 13, 2019
DeBrusk continued to be a force at the top of crease when, in the next game against the Anaheim Ducks, he planted himself in front and jammed in the rebound from Krejci’s shot for a power-play goal, extending the Bruins’ lead to 2-0 in the second period.
While DeBrusk garnered no points from the play, he again found himself in front of the net in the game against the Sharks for Krug’s tally in the first. He set the screen in front of Martin Jones that allowed Krug to blast a slap shot into the twine. Later in the same game, DeBrusk scored a power-play goal to extend the Bruins’ lead to 4-2 in the second period. On a rush with Danton Heinen, DeBrusk cut to the net, Heinen fed him and DeBrusk roofed it over Jones.
Out of his 10 points in these last five games, two have been power play goals, one has been a power-play assist and another was a goal just seconds after the man-advantage ended. For the Bruins, they’ve been a top power-play team all season and currently are second in the league with a 26.5 percent success rate. You would’ve thought with them losing their best power-play weapon they would’ve slowed down the success. DeBrusk had other plans.
While the timetable for Pastrnak’s return is still up in the air, DeBrusk needs to keep this up for the rest of season, regardless of whether or not Pastrnak is in the lineup. The Bruins have been this successful without their second-best point scorer and a big reason has been the emergence of DeBrusk. Once Pastrnak returns, DeBrusk may find himself back on the second power-play unit, but he will be a major factor for Bruins heading into the postseason.
Avid Boston sports fan, covering the Bruins for The Hockey Writers. Currently studying journalism at Quinnipiac University. Sports Editor of The Quinnipiac Chronicle and beat reporter for Quinnipiac men’s ice hockey. Contributing writer for the New Hampshire Union Leader.