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.
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.