Jake DeBrusk has made a lot of memories in his first season with the Boston Bruins. He scored his first goal and assist in his NHL debut against the defending Western Conference champion Nashville Predators back on Oct. 8, and went on to bury 16 goals and 27 assists in his rookie season, including 9 multi-point games.
But none of his goals or assists will be quite as memorable, or appreciated, as the two he scored in Game 7 to help propel the Bruins past the Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the postseason. DeBrusk stepped up to the plate in the game and the series and established himself as one of Boston’s most dangerous offensive threats at just 21-years-old.
It’ll be DeBrusk’s two-goal Game 7 performance, which included Boston’s opening goal and the eventual game-winner, that Bruins fans will remember but they weren’t surprising given the season he’s had.
The young Edmonton native has been a force in the postseason. He’s been a factor every time he steps on the ice, using his speed and grit to make his presence known. DeBrusk has the energy of a rookie sucking the marrow out of his first crack at the Stanley Cup Playoffs but has maintained a level of composure comparable to that of a seasoned veteran. To use a cliche, he’s played every game of the playoffs like it’s his last and has done everything the Bruins have asked of him in the process.
He’s relentless on the puck, which is part of the reason he registered a point in every game of the series besides Game 3, and his teammates have taken notice.
“He’s… there’s something inside of him that not many guys have. He hounds the puck. He stays on it,” said B’s defenseman Torey Krug of DeBrusk, per 98.5 The Sports Hub. “We saw it all throughout the series, whether it was up in Toronto, that play he made where he’s climbing down the boards and three guys take a run at him and he hits a guy back door.
“It’s… when he wants it he’s going to get it so, he’s a great player for us.”
DeBrusk’s second goal of Game 7, which gave Boston the lead that put the Leafs away, summarized his season. After putting himself in perfect supporting position on the breakout, he turned on the jets through the neutral zone, trying to burn the Leafs defense. DeBrusk forced Leafs d-man Jake Gardiner into the spins, earning equal body position as he drove towards the net.
From there, it was a battle of will – something that the young winger is not lacking. He made a single move to the inside and took a pretty monstrous hit from Gardiner as he released his shot. A bit of body contact wasn’t going to shake DeBrusk, who slipped the puck through Andersen’s five-hole to give Boston the lead. It was the perfect combination of speed, skill, and effort.
His reaction said it all. From one knee, an elated DeBrusk opened up his arms to celebrate with his teammates and followed up by flexing the spoked-B on his way through the handshake line as if to say “THIS is Bruins hockey.”
“I will never forget the noise that crowd made,” he said after the game, per Sara Civian of WEEI. “I just wanted to get out on the ice again… I’d stay there forever if I could.”
The Road Ahead for DeBrusk
DeBrusk was one of Boston’s stars in the first-round, but as we all know, the opening round is just the beginning of the postseason. If he quiets down (and there’s no reason to believe he will) and the Bruins are booted from the postseason, then his heroics in Game 7 will quickly fade from memory.
The Bruins have a tough second-round matchup against the Tampa Bay Lightning, who, after narrowly beating out Boston for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, dismissed the New Jersey Devils in five games.
Tampa Bay, like Toronto, is a team with a lot of speed and explosive offensive skill. The second round will likely feature a lot of back-and-forth hockey, and the Bruins will need to find players who can match the Lightning’s end-to-end game. Luckily, DeBrusk excels in that style of play.
For the six-foot forward, it’s all about keeping his foot on the gas. DeBrusk is a naturally gifted player who plays the game the right way. If he’s out there exerting 100% effort (and he usually is), then good things are going to happen. The Bruins are going to need the youngsters to step up to the plate for the second round, as they have all season, and it will be Jake DeBrusk leading the charge.