Bruins

DeBrusk looking to show some finish, lock down NHL job

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DeBrusk looking to show some finish, lock down NHL job

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s certainly not set in stone quite yet with another week-plus of training camp to go, but it would appear that Jake DeBrusk has the inside track on the top-six left wing job with David Krejci and David Pastrnak. 

DeBrusk, 20, hasn’t lit the lamp yet in the preseason while skating with Krejci and Pastrnak, but he’s certainly done some of the little things he’ll need to do for success on that line: Winning puck battles down low, paying the price in front of the net and playing with big-bodied strength along the walls to support his skilled Czech linemates.

Now it comes down to showing a little more finish to his game coming off 19 goals last season in his first year of pro hockey in Providence. On the bright side, he’s been with Krejci and Pastrnak pretty exclusively since the start of camp and that’s a sign DeBrusk is going to get every opportunity break camp in that exact spot.  

“It’s an anxious time for all of us as we’re really trying hard to make the team,” said DeBrusk. “Personally I’m looking at as an opportunity to get better every day and work on the things that I need to work on. I think I’ve been with David Krejci every single day of camp. When you’re with players like that everyday building chemistry it really helps your confidence and gets you comfortable around the room.

“But I know it’s a tough task at hand because it’s the best league in the world and there is still a lot of work to be done. There are lots of things I need to prove and I’m looking forward to the chance to do that. Obviously, everybody wants to get on the board and I’m playing with two offensive guys, so that’s the main focus. But I look at the overall game. I’ve had some Grade-A chances, but I just haven’t finished. It will be nice to hopefully see one of them go in, and have some of that success that I’ve seen other guys have in this camp.”

Count Pastrnak as a fan of DeBrusk’s game as the 21-year-old star-in-the-making gave the rookie left winger a vote of confidence as the guy he’d most like to see on his line once the regular season begins against Nashville on Oct. 5.

“In the last two games he’s gotten plenty of pucks out of the battles and he’s winning pucks, so I think the scoring and confidence will come with it,” said Pastrnak. “I like it and think [DeBrusk] is a pretty good fit. There are so many good, young players this year, so it’s fun to watch.

“I’ve been there not long ago, so I know how it feels. We had so many good opportunities in that first [preseason] game with Jake and we didn’t get rewarded. Three years ago that would have brought me down if I had those good chances without getting rewarded, but it’s not always about scoring. We had a good game offensively and we try to let him know not to let it bring [DeBrusk] down. I’m pretty sure the scoring is going to come.”

It would be ideal if it happens this week in the final two preseason tune-ups as the Bruins travel to Philadelphia and Chicago. DeBrusk wants to really lock down his NHL position by finishing off some of those plays in the offensive zone with Krejci and Pastrnak. 

A return for Heinen looks like only Game 7 lineup change

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

A return for Heinen looks like only Game 7 lineup change

BRIGHTON, Mass – It remains an unfinished product until the Bruins take the ice for warm-ups on Wednesday night ahead of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it looked like Bruce Cassidy would again be tinkering with the Black and Gold lineup. It looked like Danton Heinen was going to draw back in after being a healthy scratch for Game 6, and was skating on the right wing with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk at practice. 

If that were the case then Tommy Wingels would be back out of the lineup after dressing for Game 6, and both Ryan Donato and Brian Gionta would once be out of the game night group of 12 forwards for the decisive Wednesday night game. Cassidy said there is plenty to consider, of course, but that he felt some allegiance to the players that have brought the Bruins this far over the course of the entire regular season. 

“What we decide to do tomorrow it’s not set in stone today,” said Cassidy. “But there is a certain level of trust in the players that have gotten you this far, and Danton Heinen is certainly one of those guys. You look at his numbers and maybe that line hasn’t produced a lot 5-on-5…so what can do better? 

“He’s still a good defensive player, so he’s always going to give us that. He can play up in the lineup and he’s certainly shown that he can play down with [Sean] Kuraly. Rick Nash can certainly go back with Krejci, so that’s another quick fix.”

Here are the line combos and D-pairings based on Tuesday’s brief practice where it appeared that everybody made it through Game 6 with their health intact ahead of Wednesday’s winner-take-all series finale:   

 

Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak

DeBrusk-Krejci-Heinen

Nash-Nash-Backes

Schaller-Kuraly-Acciari 

 

Chara-McAvoy

Krug-Miller

Grzelcyk-McQuaid

 

Rask

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Bruins are banking on their experience advantage in Game 7

Bruins are banking on their experience advantage in Game 7

TORONTO – The Bruins have always done things the hard way in the Stanley Cup playoffs and that often means pushing playoff series all the way to a Game 7. That’s exactly what the B’s have done again in their best-of-seven, first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs after dropping a 3-1 decision in Game 6 at the Air Canada Centre on Monday night.

The Bruins certainly can look back with regret that they were up 3-1 in this series with a couple of chances to close it out before it got to this point and even further back at the commanding lead they had after a couple of blowout wins at home to start things out. Perhaps they thought it was going to be easier than it was before Toronto goalie Freddie Andersen stole a couple of games and before the Toronto defense managed to hold Patrice Bergeron’s line down for three games while also scoring goals with them on the ice.

Now, it’s all about a winner-take-all Game 7 on Wednesday night, where none of the rest of that matters and the Bruins are still the better team despite the way things have played out in the past couple of games. Zdeno Chara will be playing in his 10th Game 7 with the Bruins and he’ll be leading his Black and Gold group with the knowledge that he’s been there and done it before.

The same with Bergeron, who will also be playing in his 10th Game 7. He is really the heart-and-soul player that everybody knows will be bringing his best into that do-or-die contest and will be leading a wave of youngsters in their first experience with it as well. Even David Pastrnak. who's viewed as a tried-and-true, 21-year-old veteran at this point, will be experiencing a Game 7 for the first time in his NHL career when he takes the ice against the Leafs.    

“It’s always how it should be. When you’ve lived it, you want to share that experience,” said Bergeron. “We have some amazing young players in this locker room and I know they’re going to step up. That’s the approach that we have.

“Everyone just needs to go out there and play, and step up their game up and rely on everybody else to do the same. Do your job, I guess, is kind of the cliché, but that’s how you have to approach [a Game 7].”

Brad Marchand hasn’t played in as many Game 7s as Bergeron or Chara and his time in those games has led to very mixed results. Marchand scored memorably in the Game 7 win over the Vancouver Canucks in the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and was a big factor in that game and teamed with Bergeron for the game-winner vs. the Leafs in the 2013 first round. But Marchand also self-destructed in the Game 7 loss to the Montreal Canadiens in the second round of 2014 when he took a penalty for giving Carey Price a snow job on a quick hockey stop at the net and has never really been a dominant player in those instances as he is so much of the rest of the time.

With that in mind, Marchand is trying to take more of an even-handed approach to Game 7 while knowing that his team’s fate rests very much in the hands of his line: In the Bruins three losses, Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak have been shut out with a minus-16 rating while getting contained by Toronto. The Bruins agitator and leading scorer knows none of that stuff matters now, however, and it’s all about the one game still sitting in front of them.

That’s one big thing that experience will teach you in the playoffs. What happened yesterday doesn’t matter anymore and it’s all about that present moment while there’s still playoff life still left to be lived in the series. It’s those kinds of lessons where the Bruins should have a massive experience advantage over a young, inexperienced Toronto team that really hasn’t been there before, but at the end of the day, it’s all about how the players, both veteran and inexperienced, operate on the ice under the winner-take-all pressure.

The Bruins will host the Game 7 in a building where they’ve been extremely good this season (28-8-5 in the regular season) and where they should have the confidence that things will tilt back in their direction.  

“That’s playoff hockey. Regardless of what’s happened tonight or any other game, we’re going to let it go. It doesn’t matter. We just have to worry about the next one. We’ll focus on that and let this one go,” said Marchand. “If anybody would have told us at the start of the year that we’d be going into a Game 7 in the first round at home, we would have taken it. Obviously, it’s tough given the position that we’re in, but you look forward to that next game.

“It’s the only thing that we can control. Whatever has happened in the last six games doesn’t mean anything. We’re going to be out there fighting for our lives and it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be a challenge. They’re a great team and they’ve played really well in this series. It’s gonna be fun and we’re looking forward to it.”

It might be a challenge for the veteran Bruins to convey the “fun” of a one-game scenario where their season could come to a sudden end, but that’s where the leadership comes in for Bergeron, Marchand, Chara and David Krejci, who have been there many times before in Game 7s for better and for worse.

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