BRANDON, Fla. -- If you’re looking for the symbol of the Bruins' desire to win, look no further than this particular shift by Jake DeBrusk.
The B’s 21-year-old left winger is among the league’s top-5 in goal-scoring during the Stanley Cup playoffs with his six goals scored in eight games played, and certainly his two-goal effort in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs is one to be long remembered in Black and Gold history.
DeBrusk scored an empty net goal in the waning third period minutes of Boston’s 6-2 Game 1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday afternoon, but it was a different shift that had people talking about him after the game. It was a gritty defensive zone shift.
During that earlier third period shift, DeBrusk was clobbered twice by Alex Killorn, including a second hit that appeared to knock the rookie winger down the ice, knock his stick out of his hands and knock the wind out of him. Instead of embracing whatever instinct was telling him to head back to the bench, DeBrusk trudged over to retrieve his stick, blocked a Yanni Gourde shot and then staggered and dove to clear the puck out of the zone before finally skating to the bench.
It wasn’t quite Gregory Campbell against the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013, but it was the same kind of unyielding spirit shown by the rookie.
“That was an amazing shift by [DeBrusk]. He got pushed around a couple of times, and he gets back up and gets some blocks, has a good stick and then gets the puck out,” said Patrice Bergeron. “That’s what we need and that’s what we want to see, and he got rewarded with the empty netter too. It’s great to see from the young guys. I say that a lot, but it’s fun to watch.”
It wasn’t easy for the rookie, of course, but it’s also the kind of shift that a hockey club needs to win during the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“I think I started the whole shift off with a turnover, but I was just trying to find my stick and just try to regroup and stay in position,” said DeBrusk. “They were buzzing and Yanni [Gourde] got a shot and I just tried to get in the way, and then desperation on the third play in the sequence. I knew I needed to get it out there or else it could have been trouble. I dove and was lucky enough to get a piece.
“It’s one of those things where it’s the playoffs and you’ve got to give it your all. Especially, when they’re pushing hard like that. I didn’t even know how I got hit. I just knew I was on the ice, and I was like ‘Whoa, I just got rocked.’ It’s not a great feeling, but at the same time I didn’t hear anything go into the net. So you just keep playing and then take a couple of minutes to regroup myself [on the bench].”
That hard-working, tough defensive shift was appreciated by the Bruins coaching staff as well. It gives Bruce Cassidy something to point toward for younger B’s players when it comes to the price to be paid for playoff wins. The B’s bench boss also wants to see that kind of effort and desire turn into better execution in puck management and puck possession, and perhaps take away some of the need to block shots during scrambling shifts in the defensive zone against a high-powered Tampa Bay outfit.
“I thought we defended hard and wanted to keep the puck out of our own net. Jake DeBrusk’s shift in the third period was a great example of that, just wanting to do whatever he had to do to keep the puck out of his own net,” said Cassidy. “We’ve just got to execute better. I think we had the opportunity to play with the puck a little more and we just gave it back to them. If you keep doing that eventually you’re going to pay that price. I suspect they’ll be better in certain areas of the game after [Game 1] and I hope that we will be too.”
One thing is for certain: DeBrusk is already locked in to that high level at both ends of the ice, and has been for the entire playoff run for the Bruins in an impressive showing for a rookie in his first Stanley Cup postseason go-round.
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