Bruins DeBrusk & Haula Provide Key Contributions on 5-Game Homestand

Playing their second-longest homestand of the 2021-22 season, the Boston Bruins closed out their five-game homestand Saturday night with a 5-2 come-from-behind win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, on the strength of three third period goals. The Black and Gold racked up eight out of a possible 10 points in the last nine days and remain in the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

As the Bruins head out on a four-game road beginning Monday in Columbus on the back end of a home and home, here are five takeaways from the five-game homestand that had plenty of more ups than downs for Boston.

Bruins Get Statement Win & Statement Loss

It’s not very often that a team can get a statement win and a statement loss in one homestand, but the Bruins managed to pull it off. On March 24, they twice rallied from one-goal deficits to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, on the strength of three David Pastrnak goals. He tied the game 1-1 in the second period, before two third period goals against Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy completed the comeback. In terms of statement wins, the Bruins have won two out of the three games against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, with their only loss coming in overtime.

There was a lot of hype surrounding the game against the Toronto Maple Leafs on March 29 with the teams tied in the Atlantic Division standings, but it was only the Maple Leafs who seemed ready to play. They scored six goals in the first 40 minutes and built a 6-1 lead, before the Black and Gold scored the final three goals to make the score respectable. The Bruins had trouble from the drop of the puck with Toronto’s speed, skill, and overall performance. It was the second time this season that Boston failed to be able to play with their Original Six rival.

Boston had a chance to jump the Maple Leafs in the standings, but they failed to with what could be considered one of their worst performances of the 2021-22 season. If the two teams meet up in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Toronto should feel confident against the Bruins.

Bruins Get Huge Bounce-Back Win

The Bruins were facing a tough challenge trying to bounce back forty-eight hours after losing to Toronto against the New Jersey Devils. Boston erased the bad memory of the previous game with a dominating, 8-1, win over the Devils.

After a Matt Grzelcyk goal just 57 seconds into the game, the Bruins scored six second-period goals to build an 8-1 lead after two periods and they played the final 20 minutes without much worry. They finished the game with goals from six different players, including four from four of their top-six forwards. Boston outshot the Devils, 40-26, and forced 14 giveaways by New Jersey. It was a win that was needed to get the sour taste out of their mouths from the Maple Leafs’ game.

Following the loss to Toronto, coach Bruce Cassidy hinted at some possible lineup changes and he made four against New Jersey. Mike Reilly and Josh Brown replaced Connor Clifton and Derek Forbort on defense. Reilly had an assist and Brown quickly became a fan favorite by fighting New Jersey’s Mason Geertsen, but he exited the game early with an upper-body injury. Anton Blidh replaced Nick Foligno on the fourth line and finished with four hits. Marc McLaughlin filled in for a sick Craig Smith on the third line and scored his first career NHL goal in his first career game. All in all, it was a good bounce-back all around by the Black and Gold.

DeBrusk Played Like a Top-Six Forward

At the trade deadline on March 21, all signs pointed to Jake DeBrusk being traded. He was due a $4.41 million qualifying offer from whatever team he was on at the end of the season, but Boston general manager (GM) Don Sweeney five hours ahead of the deadline signed the 14th overall pick in the 2015 Entry Draft to a two-year extension with a $4 million cap hit. It was thought that signing DeBrusk would make him more tradeable. It never happened.

Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins
Jake DeBrusk, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Instead, Sweeney held onto the 25-year-old, and DeBrusk played the five-game homestand looking like a top-six forward. He scored goals in four consecutive games and assisted on another for four points. On the top line with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, DeBrusk has played physical, using his speed to generate scoring chances and becoming a net-front presence. His biggest hustle goal came in the win over the Devils when Marchand’s shot from the blue line was stopped by Nico Daws, but the rebound was left in between the two circles and DeBrusk skated onto the puck alone, and scored his 18th goal of the season. DeBrusk’s recent play has not gone lost on Marchand.

“It’s big. That’s playoff hockey right there. Jake has found his game,” Marchand said. “There seems to be a weight lifted off his shoulders. I think he’s just happy to be here and kind of have the stress of everything out of the way, at least for right now. And he’s been playing better. That is the type of hockey we’re going to need going forward. You look at the teams around the league that are in playoff position, especially in the East, the teams we’re gonna see, they’re big, they’re heavy, the D are tough and they compete hard. We’re gonna have that every single night moving forward, so it’s something we have to establish every night.”

DeBrusk is not likely going to reach his career-high of 27 goals he had in 2018-19, but he can reach his second career 20-goal season of his career in the final 14 games, needing just one goal. With the way he has been scoring lately, you have to think 20 goals are well within reach. 

Bergeron’s Importance to Bruins Shows After Surgery

Bergeron returned to the lineup in the Bruins’ 6-3 win over the New York Islanders and his impact was instantly felt. His presence on the first power play unit in the bumper position was felt in the first period when Boston put together their best man advantage in several games when they kept the puck in the Islanders zone for nearly the entire two minutes and had three shots on the net. In their second opportunity later in the period, Bergeron won a faceoff, something Erik Haula and Charlie Coyle struggled to do in the captain’s absence on the power play, and allowed Charlie McAvoy’s pass from the point to be deflected by Taylor Hall.

Related: Bruins Takeaways From Dominating Win Over Islanders

The Bruins’ power play has looked better in the last four games with goals in all four of the games, but consistency is needed in the final month of the regular season, leading into the postseason. Bergeron has also been strong on faceoffs, winning 37 of his 60 draws, and as usual, been key on the penalty kill.

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron Boston Bruins
Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Following the season, Bergeron is a free agent and did not want to address his future prior to the season. Will he return, go to another team or retire? That remains to be seen, but his importance, even at 37 years old, is evident each night he is in or out of the lineup.

Haula Continues to Shine as Second Line Center

When the trade deadline passed on March 21, a weight was lifted off of Haula’s shoulders. Since becoming the second-line center, the veteran has played very well between Hall and Pastrnak, but rumors swirled that the Bruins were looking to add a second-line center at the trade deadline. That never occurred and since March 21, Haula continues to thrive as a top-six center, including in the five-game homestand.

Related: Bruins’ Nick Foligno Will Always Have a Home in Columbus

Haula had three goals and dished out four assists in the last five games, including assisting on all three of Pastrnak’s goals against the Lightning. He scored the first goal of the game against the Blue Jackets and then added the game-winner late in the third period on the power play. He also had goals against the Devils and Islanders. When he was signed last offseason, he was thought of as a bottom-six center, but he has been valuable as the second-line center since Jan. 1.

With the NCAA Frozen Four taking over the TD Garden on April 7 and 9, the Bruins hit the road for a four-game road trip that ends with tough matchups against the Lightning and Washington Capitals. That begins a tough stretch of April for the Black and Gold that leads right into the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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