A little over a week ago, I wrote about a problem the Boston Bruins have been facing: secondary scoring. The lack of scoring behind the Bruins’ top line isn’t a new issue, but rather one that the team has been aware of (but have been fortunate enough to overlook) for quite some time.
It seems that Jake DeBrusk was listening. The third-year NHLer has turned on the jets around the turn of the New Year (as he’s made a habit of doing), and it couldn’t have come at a better time for DeBrusk or his team.
As Boston charges into the second half of the season aiming to protect their lead in the Atlantic Division, DeBrusk’s success on the second line will be a large factor in determining whether the Bruins can keep their place among the elites of the Eastern Conference.
The Return of #CellySzn
If there’s one thing that DeBrusk is known for, it’s his celebrations. Very few players in the NHL follow up goals with celebrations as electric as DeBrusk, and as a fan, it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Say what you want about “acting like you’ve been there before” – there’s certainly a place for that in the game (look no further than the professionalism of Patrice Bergeron) – but it’s hard not to love the childlike joy that radiates from DeBrusk after every tuck.
His celebrations have even developed their own hashtag on Twitter, embraced by fans and the Bruins’ own Twitter account alike:
The problem was that, up until recently, #CellySzn appearances have been few and far between. Through the first 38 games of the season, DeBrusk had tallied just 20 points (.52 points per game). And while things have been a bit turbulent on the second line (the Bruins are still looking for their permanent second-line right-winger), more was expected of No. 74 in black and gold.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy made his thoughts on this very clear back on Jan. 4, when he not-so-subtly called out DeBrusk and linemate David Krejci for their lack of production.
“But right now, they just haven’t connected for whatever reason,” Cassidy said, per NESN. “I don’t want to put it on one individual or the other … Jake’s also, what now, he’s been in the league for 180-some-odd games? Should be able to look after himself too at this point on a nightly basis, and they should be feeding off of one another … I mean, that’s clearly a group of players that, it doesn’t matter who they’re with, we need to see a little bit more attack out of them. Some nights it goes in, you go through stretches — everything goes in, something doesn’t –but I just think they’ve been too quiet for how good they are.”
Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe all DeBrusk needed was a little kick from his coach. Either way, he’s done exactly what Cassidy has needed since.
In the five games since Cassidy’s comments, DeBrusk has been a menace to opposing teams, tallying seven points (1.4 points per game). This included a four-game point streak (which ended Tuesday night), which included three goals. It was DeBrusk’s longest streak of the season. It was also one that came right on cue for the 23-year-old.
DeBrusk’s History of Second-Half Streaks
In his short career, DeBrusk has made a habit of turning it on for the second half of the season, spawning memes such as this one from 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Ty Anderson:
They say there’s a grain of truth in every joke, but in this case, it’s a lot more than a grain. The second half of the season is money-making time for DeBrusk.
Take a look at last season as an example. The second-half streak came a little later than it looks to be coming this season, but it was awfully impressive nonetheless.
Before the All-Star break last season, DeBrusk had tallied just 18 points in 40 games (.45 points per game). After the break, he went on a tear, notching 24 points in 28 games (.86 points per game).
DeBrusk’s second-half dominance last season included a five-game goal streak from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20 (five goals, five assists). He then was quieted for one game on Feb. 23 against Columbus before kickstarting a four-game point streak from Feb. 26 to March 5.
All in all, he ended the season registering at least a point in 14 of Boston’s final 20 games, including five multi-point games down the stretch.
Two years ago, during his rookie season? A similar streak, albeit a less dramatic one. Before the All-Star break, DeBrusk notched 25 points in 43 games (.58 points per game). After the break? 18 points in 27 games (.67 points per game), including a streak of 13 points in 11 games in late February and early March.
While it’s too early to declare DeBrusk’s current run of form to be as impressive as last season’s, the Bruins are certainly hoping that history repeats itself. With the second-line right-wing position still facing more rotation than a 7-Eleven hot dog, some consistent production on the left-wing could go a long way in locking up the secondary scoring that the Bruins have so desperately needed.