Jake DeBrusk

Krejci still one of the big keys for B's postseason success

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Krejci still one of the big keys for B's postseason success

BRIGHTON, Mass – Looking at the numbers, David Krejci has been very good in the first round series against the Maple Leafs with two goals and four points in four postseason games.

But three of those four points came in the two lopsided wins for the Bruins on home ice in Game 1 and Game 2, and it was a bit of a different story up in Toronto. Krejci was a minus player in the Game 3 loss to the Maple Leafs and then saw his ice time drop to a series-low 13:07 in Game 4 as the B’s squeaked out the 3-1 victory over the Leafs with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup.

Krejci managed just a couple of shots on net in the two road games in Toronto, had a series of turnovers including one that led to a breakaway in the first period of Game 4 and experienced trouble generating second line offense most of the time in the two games. That all changed when he lifted a saucer pass to Jake DeBrusk in the third period of Game 4 that provided the insurance score in Boston’s pivotal victory, but it made for a tough series of games to evaluate No. 46.

MORE BRUINS: Cassidy expects Bergeron to play tonight

“I think he’s a guy that’s been there before, so he can rise up and elevate his game. When he doesn’t sometimes it can be frustrating because you want him to be at that level all the time, which is a big ask. But at the end of the day he’s got speed on his wings now, and we’re just asking him to be mindful of using them,” said Bruce Cassidy. “If they’re going to tighten up and have tight gaps where Toronto wants to be up, then you should play behind them at times and he’s got the wingers to do it.

“He’s a guy that’s been in this league and had success in the playoffs, so you don’t want to tell him how to play the game. But [it’s about] understanding what the other team is doing. You try to educate him on that, so he can make good decisions where he’s using his wingers to their best ability. But at the end of the day he made a big play to put the game away, so kudos to him. How did it start? It started with him blocking a shot.”

The hope obviously is that the Krejci-to-DeBrusk connection at the end of Game 4 might spark that second line a little bit, and allow the trio of Krejci, DeBrusk and Rick Nash to generate more offensive support up front. The Bruins top line has been so good against the Maple Leafs defense that they might need any secondary support in this current first round series, but they’re going to need more from Krejci and Co. moving forward against teams with deeper, stronger defensive units.

“It turned out to be an insurance goal, and a really big one for our team,” said Krejci. “It helps, but it’s a new team where we know they’ve gotten better. We just need to leave everything on the ice. We’ll just go shift-by-shift and focus on that every single time.

“We’ve been getting chances, but the main thing is managing the puck. They’re a quick transition team and if you make mistakes they have lots of speed and lots of skill. So they’ll make it count. You need to make sure you play smart and create offense from playing down low, fore-checks and being really hard on their ‘D’. That’s what we’re trying to do, especially early on tonight.”

Given that Krejci led the playoff field in scoring in each of the two postseasons where the Bruins got to the Cup Final, both the Czech center and his hockey team know how important he is to achieving playoff success. He may not lead all scorers in points this time around, but an effective, dangerous second line for the Bruins is important to the kind of sustained success the Black and Gold are looking for this spring.

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DeBrusk sparkles in first steps on postseason stage

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DeBrusk sparkles in first steps on postseason stage

TORONTO -- It will go down as the big insurance goal in Boston’s titanic Game 4 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but it was also another stamp on the NHL rookie passport for Jake DeBrusk.

DeBrusk scored his second goal of the postseason finishing off a sweet David Krejci setup on a transition play in the third period of Thursday night’s game, giving the Bruins the insurance goal they needed in a 3-1 victory, and spent the moments afterward thinking about just how fortunate he’s been in this first NHL campaign.

“I knew it was coming the whole time, but the defensemen kind of slid and I saw the puck in the air,” said DeBrusk. “That’s just [Krejci] doing his thing and the next thing I knew the puck was on my tape. I had a wide-open net and I don’t know too many guys that are going to miss that. It was a gritty play by him, and that’s why he’s been who he’s been during his time with the Bruins. He’s a special player and he’s special for me to play with.”

The 21-year-old kid has already passed his old man, former NHL tough guy and current Canadian TV analyst Louie DeBrusk, in career NHL playoff points, and is on a team that’s one game away from advancing to the second round. For the Bruins, the two goals in four playoff games has been solid production from a youngster who's been arguably the best player on his forward line to this point in the series.

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Actually, it’s not much of an argument. DeBrusk has been the best player on his line to date, and that means he’s been leading the way for much bigger names like Krejci and Rick Nash in a playoff run where the Bruins will need more overall from their second line.

“It’s nice . . . to see these young guys enjoying the moment,” said coach BruceCassidy. “We saw it with Charlie [McAvoy] last year. They’re learning how to play winning hockey in April, and hopefully into May and June. That’s the idea. Because they’re in the lineup and we trust them to play ‘X’ number of minutes, [and] that’s what’s going to be required for us to be successful.

“They certainly don’t have to lead our team, and we’re not relying on them every night to lead our team. But just do your part, play hard and play well, play the right way this time of year and you’ll get opportunities to grow. Jake is finding it a bit offensively. The puck is finding him. It was a great play by Krejci and he had a couple of good looks. It’s working out well for him, and we’re going to need it because we can’t rely on just one line to score all our goals.”

For a hockey nut like DeBrusk, this is “pinch me” territory.

“I think I’m settling in okay. I enjoy it,” said DeBrusk, who led the Bruins with seven hits in a physical, board-battle filled effort that ended with his nifty finish around the net in the final period. “I like the physical intensity and everything [the playoffs] brings: The noise, the energy and pretty much everything about it. It’s what you play for.

"I’m really lucky to have this opportunity in my rookie year and on this team, and where I am in the lineup. I understand that as well so I’m just trying to enjoy every moment of it. You don’t really enjoy it when you lose, but you sure do when you win.”

If it turns out to be a long playoff run, there will certainly be other chances for different rookies to have their moments; there are so many of them on the B’s, ranging from McAvoy to Danton Heinen to Matt Grzelcyk to Sean Kuraly and even to Ryan Donato, who's currently out of the lineup. But it’s DeBrusk who's the rookie with the most veteran-like game who's off to a fast start in the postseason, and really seizing the rare rookie opportunity being given to him by the Bruins right now.

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

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David Krejci Line looks to shoulder their share of Bruins offensive burden

TORONTO – The Bruins top line totaled up 20 points in the first two games, and the B’s took both of those against the Maple Leafs. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak had zero points in Game 3 on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre, and the Bruins ended up dropping that game to the Leafs. 

So clearly the Bruins’ playoff fate could be strongly tied to the ebbs and flow of their top forward trio, but the hope with the B’s is that the formula won’t be that simple throughout the postseason. A big part of the reason the Bruins gave up a boatload to the New York Rangers in exchange for Rick Nash was to acquire another forward capable of shouldering a scoring load, and turn Boston’s second line into a much more dangerous group. 

All three members of the B’s second line, David Krejci, Rick Nash and Jake DeBrusk, all have goals during the best-of-seven series, but they also came up empty in Game 3 with Krejci and DeBrusk only managing two shots on net between them. They know that they’re capable of more given the offensive talent on the ice, and given that so much defensive attention is being paid to neutralizing Bergeron, Marchand and Pastrnak rather than them. 

“We had lots of good looks. I missed a couple. We had lots of good looks that just didn’t go in,” said Krejci. “So we need to work extra harder [in Game 4] to bury those chances and have them end up in the back of the net. We need to stick to the game plan and respect the game plan.”

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Nash had five shots on net and some pretty good chances, but the best scoring chance was a DeBrusk dangle and pass to Krejci wide open at the net. It looked like the puck hit a rut on the ice and Krejci was never able to settle it down for a shot despite the nice-looking pass, so that line is left biding their team for another chance to carry the offense. 

“I think that’s the main reason why we’re the second line. We all have attributes that can help this team. It hasn’t really come to the table yet, but I still thought that we generated chances [in Game 3], and I think our whole team did. It just wasn’t bouncing our way,” said DeBrusk. “It’s frustrating, but at the same time you take the positives from it. It’s not going to be easy. It’s going to get harder from here on in. Hopefully our top line does their thing, but if not then we’ll be ready to hopefully help out in that category.”

The Bruins top line is ready, willing and able to shoulder the lion’s share of the scoring burden for the Black and Gold, and most nights they’re going to be able to live up to that kind of responsibility. But if the Bruins want to beat the good defensive teams and become a much more difficult team to play against in the postseason, they’re going to need to start getting production from a second line that should be built to play the power, puck possession game in the postseason.

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