Bruins

Bruins vs. Lightning Overreactions: Jake DeBrusk's struggles are concerning

Bruins

It's hard to find much to like about the Boston Bruins' performance through two NHL round robin games.

The Bruins lost Sunday to the Philadelphia Flyers and again Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Lightning. As a result, the B's cannot finish any higher than third in the round robin standings, which means they won't be the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the upcoming Stanley Cup Playoffs despite winning the Presidents' Trophy in the regular season.

Outside of a few impressive individual performances, there are plenty of areas for concern involving this Bruins team. The Bruins' top line -- arguably the best trio in the league -- has one point in these two games. Patrice Bergeron earned an assist on Charlie McAvoy's second-period goal against Tampa Bay. His linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak have been held scoreless to this point. The second line has played even worse. David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk have generated almost nothing offensively. 

Get the latest news and analysis on all of your teams from NBC Sports Boston by downloading the My Teams App

Time is running out for the Bruins to analyze their play and make the needed corrections. Sunday's round robin finale versus the Washington Capitals is Boston's final game before the first round of the playoffs. 

Let's take a look at three instant overreactions from Bruins-Lightning and assess their merit (All advanced stats via Natural Stat Trick).

1. Jake DeBrusk's play is a concern
Verdict: Not an overreaction

The Bruins won't advance very far in the playoffs if their secondary scoring doesn't show up. One player who's relied on to provide this offensive production is DeBrusk, but he's been totally invisible through two round robin games. DeBrusk has zero goals and zero assists in two games, and after tallying two shots against the Flyers last weekend, he posted zero shots versus the Lightning.  The Bruins were out shot 11-4 during 5-on-5 action when DeBrusk was on the ice Wednesday.

 

DeBrusk scored a career-high 27 goals in 68 games last season, and he was unable to match that scoring rate this season with 19 goals in 65 games. The 23-year-old left winger scored only one goal in the last 14 games of the regular season, so his struggles in the Toronto bubble are not exactly new. DeBrusk is at his best when he's driving hard to the net and being aggressive, and we haven't seen enough of that in the round robin.

Let's not forget DeBrusk will be a restricted free agent in the offseason. He's playing for his first sizable contract, so he certainly doesn't need any more motivation to improve.

2. Bruins will have a really tough Round 1 opponent
Verdict: Not an overreaction

One of the consequences of the B's playing so poorly in the round robin is they will earn themselves a difficult first-round matchup. If the B's finish as the No. 4 seed, which is pretty likely at the moment, they would play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. If the Penguins are upset by the Montreal Canadiens in their qualifying round series, Boston would take on the Carolina Hurricanes in Round 1.

The Penguins would be the worst possible first-round opponent for the B's. Pittsburgh is loaded with veterans, many of whom were part of the team's back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 2016 and 2017. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are two of the best players of their generation, and they both have scored at better than a point-per-game pace in their playoff careers. The Hurricanes are a well-balanced team that ranked 11th in goals scored, eighth in power play percentage and fourth in penalty killing during the regular season. Carolina also is an elite puck possession team (fourth-best shot attempt percentage at 5-on-5) and gave up the third-fewest scoring chances at 5-on-5 in the regular season.

The Bruins' lack of results in the round robin has made their path back to the Stanley Cup Final a lot harder than it needed to be. It's a tough break for a team that won the Presidents' Trophy, but the B's knew the importance of the round robin and have still played terribly. 

3. Tuukka Rask will struggle to begin the playoffs
Verdict: Overreaction

Rask gave up a somewhat soft goal in the first period when the Lightning opened the scoring. The B's goaltender lost track of the puck and Lightning center Brayden Point was able to capitalize in front of the net. The Lightning scored again later in the first period on a double deflection that Rask didn't deserve much blame on. After that, Rask settled in and gave the Bruins a chance to get back into the game, and they responded by tying the score with goals from McAvoy and Chris Wagner.

 

Rask played his best in the third period with several important saves on quality Lightning scoring chances, including this one to deny Point.

Rask did give up the winning goal when Tyler Johnson pounced on a juicy rebound and scored to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead with 1:27 remaining. But overall, Boston's No. 1 netminder played well enough for fans to be optimistic that he'll be ready to perform at a high level when Round 1 of the playoffs begins. 

Wednesday's matchup was only Rask's second game since the season was paused in March. He was the league's best goaltender during the regular season and is the favorite to win the Vezina Trophy. There's no reason to panic over his playoff readiness at this time.

Krug stands up for teammate, fights Lightning's Blake Coleman