Mat Barzal

Talking Points: Bruins dominating and depth is the deciding factor

Talking Points: Bruins dominating and depth is the deciding factor

GOLD STAR: They weren’t rewarded until late in the game with actual points, but Tim Schaller and his fourth line cohorts were dominant throughout the game. They consistently pounded the offensive zone with long puck possession shifts and continued wearing down the New York Islanders defense before it finally broke in the third period. Schaller finally got on the board through a nice play by Sean Kuraly that his linemate popped in on the rebound. He finished with a goal and two points, and a plus-2 in 11:54 of ice time along with four shots on net. While it’s clear that the Bruins third line has been really productive over the last few weeks, the fourth line has also been serving notice that they’re going to be an impact energy group as well. Tuesday night might have been the fourth line’s best night of the season, and it was easily one of Schaller’s best games of the year.

BLACK EYE: John Tavares had a forgettable night as he was dominated by just about every line the Bruins threw at them. The Isles franchise cornerstone finished with minus-3 and just one shot on net in 19 minutes of ice time, and also lost 8-of-14 face-offs while getting worked by Boston’s down-the-middle crew. It was Tavares that was beaten cleanly by Riley Nash for a goal in the first period off the draw. Perhaps that threw Tavares off for the rest of the night, it was certainly a poor game on his part.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins worked to get a 2-1 lead entering the third period, and they truly dominated the middle 20 minutes by outshooting the Isles by a 17-4 margin despite getting just a single goal of separation. So the Bruins could have buckled holding a small lead, and almost did at the end of the second period when Mat Barzal went end-to-end through the Bruins defense in a play that ended with Nick Leddy jacking a ripped point shot off the post. After escaping that segment, the Bruins came out and scored three unanswered goals in the third period to take home an eventual 5-1 win over the Islanders. The Bruins have shown an ability to finish strong and they did it once again against the Islanders after physically grinding them through the opening 40 minutes.

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron only needed to play 14:22 of ice time, but he made it count while snapping home the game-winner in the second period when it was still a tightly-contested game. Bergeron batted a puck out of mid-air at the Islanders net, guided it toward his stick and then fired a puck at the skates of Jaroslav Halak in an incredibly heady play. In all Bergeron finished with a goal, a plus-1 rating, two shots on net, two hits and 12-of-17 face-off wins in a game where he got to rest a bit in the third period. But No. 37 was right where he needed to be during the money portion of the game before they run away with it late.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – The Bruins line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak were finally on ice for their first 5-on-5 goal against this season when Brandon Carlo fell down with the puck right in front of the B’s net after a Bergeron D-zone face-off win. They deserved a better fate, but it doesn’t take away any of the dominant even-strength play they’ve had this season.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “[The Bruins] are a good offensive team and they don’t give up a whole lot. But it’s not good enough for our group starting with myself. We need to set the tone the right way and start playing to expectations.” –John Tavares, who paid the Bruins plenty of complements while taking responsibility for an Islanders team that didn’t play well. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

DeBrusk doing all of the little things right to earn his spot in Boston

bruins_tuukka_rask_jake_debrusk_120917.jpg

DeBrusk doing all of the little things right to earn his spot in Boston

BOSTON – The overwhelming chatter leading up to Saturday night’s game vs. the Islanders was about electric rookie playmaker Mathew Barzal, and the fact that the Bruins passed on him in the 2015 NHL Draft with their three consecutive picks. Only time will tell if the Bruins played it correctly, whiffed badly, or made the right choice by passing on the forward. There won’t be a final resolution until a good 5-10 years have gone by for respective careers of Barzal, Jake DeBrusk, Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn.

But DeBrusk stepped up and made a huge statement about his own game in a 3-1 win over the Islanders on Saturday night, when the 21-year-old left winger scored the game-winning goal. He also stepped up and courageously tangled with Casey Cizikas after the Islanders energy guy threw a big hit on Charlie McAvoy.  

DeBrusk was slapped with an instigator penalty good for 17 penalty minutes that seemed ridiculous given that the rookie waited for Cizikas to drop the gloves before engaging in the fight, but he rookie was able to make light of it after the game.

“The fight? Well, I mean a fight’s a fight. I think I had zero penalty minutes coming in and now I have 17. So, it’s kind of funny that way,” said DeBrusk, who is now on pace for a solid 19 goals and 45 points this season. “It’s a big night; it’s kind of funny that way, but no, it was just more so standing up for a teammate. I thought it was a clean hit. I didn’t think it was dirty, but just heat of the moment.” 

DeBrusk was close to finishing off a nice setup with David Krejci in the third period, close to earning himself a Gordie Howe hat trick. Saturday night served as a showcase for DeBrusk’s talent, strong character and makeup, and the variety of reasons he’s going to be just fine with the Bruins. Sure, he might not land as many points as Barzal has at the end of the season, but DeBrusk is looking like a pretty good player himself. 

DeBrusk has been showcasing why he’s a perfect fit for this particular hockey club now, and that’s really the most important thing.   

“I think it’s good for his teammates to know that he’s going to get in there, whether people think it’s right or wrong,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s in there looking after one of his teammates, so guys appreciate that. In the playoffs the discipline level goes up a lot and obviously the regular season you need your level of discipline, but at that time and juncture in the game, I think everyone’s fine with [DeBrusk sticking up for his teammate] and it will help him in the room."

“I think it was written that there [should have been] a certain player drafted ahead of him, so I think he took it upon himself to maybe show that he’s here for a reason, he’s a good player in his own right, and he was pretty excited about it. Good for him; he’s a young guy and we like that excitement level out of those young guys.”

Despite spending 17 total minutes in the box, DeBrusk would net his sixth goal of the year. He jumped out of the box after serving his time, and managed to score on his first post-fight shift with a shot at the net from the high slot area. It was, on one hand, a resounding bit of karmic glory from the Hockey Gods after doing the right thing standing up for one of his teammates. It was also a great display of character and poise from a young winger that immediately responding with production after lengthy penalty time.

“I thought it was great to see him stepping up for Chuckie [Charlie McAvoy] there and then getting that goal. He was in the penalty box for a while and sometimes your legs can get stiff and cold, and he didn’t miss a beat,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Then he was ready for when I guess he got a tap on the back, and came back on the ice. It was a huge goal for us. We needed that. So kudos to him for stepping up and making those two big plays [when the B’s needed him].”

The simple truth when it comes to DeBrusk is that he’s the best, and most advanced, of the three players selected by the Bruins in the middle of the 2015 NHL Draft. The young forward looks like he’s going to be in the NHL for a long time. There is no revisionist history with Bruins fans wanting Barzal rather than DeBrusk with the 14th overall pick because that was never really the case. This entire situation is unfortunately more about 15th overall pick Zach Senyshyn as he slowly gathers experience in Providence, and faces lingering questions about whether he’ll ever be better than Barzal, Kyle Connor, Travis Konecny, Brock Boeser, Colin White or any number of talented players selected right after him in the draft.

Right now DeBrusk looks like the surest Bruins bet for a long NHL career between the three 2015 first round picks, and he backed that up with the kind of scoring, tough game Bruins fans will learn to love very, very quickly. 

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

DeBrusk not getting caught up in Barzal draft comparisons

jake-debrusk-mat-barzal-120917.jpg

DeBrusk not getting caught up in Barzal draft comparisons

BRIGHTON, Mass – Jake DeBrusk knows that he will probably be forever linked with other players in his extremely talented 2015 draft class.

DeBrusk has done well with five goals and 12 points in 22 games and is on pace for a solid 18 goals and 43 points in his first season with the Black and Gold. The 21-year-old winger has also returned to the lineup from an upper-body injury just in time to suit up Saturday night against the New York Islanders and with that, further a continuing storyline from a draft that was almost three years ago.

MORE BRUINS:

DeBrusk was the second of three consecutive Bruins picks in the first round that included defenseman Jakub Zboril and Zach Senyshyn and was part of a B's draft class that includes Brandon Carlo, Jeremy Lauzon and Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson as well.

But the Isles will also be bringing an electric, skilled young center named Mathew Barzal with them to the Garden tonight. That player was passed over three times by the Bruins before going to the Isles with the 16th pick. Barzal leads all NHL rookies with 27 points (eight goals, 19 assists) in 28 games and has been part of a team ranked second overall in the NHL in offense this season.

It would be natural for Bruins fans to be a little vexed thinking what might have been if Barzal was their third-line center between Danton Heinen and David Backes, particularly with both Zboril and Senyshyn still finding their games in the minor leagues. Or it might be easy for DeBrusk to compare himself to a player taken immediately after him who has taken the NHL world by storm, but he says it won’t be something he’ll get caught up in.

“Hopefully it’s long careers for everybody, and some start faster than others," DeBrusk said. "We’re two different players and there are a lot of different players in that draft class that have different qualities and abilities. It will be competitive, but it’s not necessarily going to be a ‘Me vs. [Barzal] situation.’ It’s the Bruins vs. Islanders, so I’ll just take it shift by shift and see if I match up against him. I’m just looking for a good performance after coming back [in the last game].”

But DeBrusk isn’t overly concerned with comparing his game to Barzal, or frankly to another of the other extremely talented players (Kyle Connor, Brock Boeser, Colin White, Travis Konecny, Thomas Chabot etc.) that were taken after Boston’s three consecutive picks.

“I’ve already played against a couple [of kids in his draft class] this year with Connor [McDavid] at the top, and [Jack] Eichel and Timo Meier, and now it’s Mat [Barzal]. We played against each other in Seattle a little bit in junior," DeBrusk said. "He’s a very good player, fast and skilled. I’m just trying to find my game and do my thing out there. Obviously. everything likes to make a deal about certain things, but I’m not sure it’s as big of a deal as some might make it.

“He’s had a good start and I think I’ve come along well, and other players in that draft class are finding their way as well. You go to previous years and previous situations, and there are always things that could or should have been done, or however you want to say it. I think [the Bruins] are happy with what’s going on, and we’re looking to shut [the Islanders] down and get two points.”

It’s clearly not productive or useful for DeBrusk to try to live up to any comparisons of players taken after him in the draft, but don’t blame Bruins fans if they do a little bit of that when the B’s and the Isles take the ice on Saturday night.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE