Bruins

DeBrusk sparkles in first steps on postseason stage

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File Photo

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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Countdown to Bruins training camp: Chris Wagner

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USA TODAY Sports Photo

Countdown to Bruins training camp: Chris Wagner

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: Chris Wagner.

One of the offseason aims for the Boston Bruins was bringing a little more experience and a little more physical thump to their fourth line, and the Bruins did that by signing Chris Wagner to a two-year contract on the opening day of free agency. The addition of Wagner adds a hard-hitting, versatile element to the bottom-six up front for the Bruins, and also gives the Bruins yet another local success story as a Walpole, Mass., native coming home to play for his hometown team. The fact that Wagner plays with the blue collar, physical style favored by Bruins fans will make it all the better for him in his home state.   

What Happened Last Year: The 27-year-old Wagner had a strong season with the Anaheim Ducks/New York Islanders going into free agency with seven goals and 16 points in 79 games while finishing among the NHL’s top-5 in registered hits. It was the most games that Wagner has ever played in the NHL and the most production he’s ever posted as well. Based on his track record and how hard he plays the game, it shouldn’t be all that difficult for Wagner to at least play at least season’s level for the next few seasons while under contract with Boston. 

Questions To Be Answered This Season: The big question for the rugged, high-energy Wagner is where the ceiling will be for him over the next few seasons after cementing himself as an NHL player last season. Is he going to be good for something in the neighborhood of five goals/15 points as a third/fourth line forward, or can Wagner hit double-digit goals once he settles into with a role and linemates for the Black and Gold. The other part of that question is whether Wagner can continue with the desperation and maximum energy output that he played with for Anaheim/New York last season. Will the security of a multi-year deal in Boston allow Wagner to relax a little bit and potentially not play with the kind of fire required to hit, play physical and get in the other team’s face? Only time will tell on this one, but it’s tough to get against a player like Wagner that’s had to scrap for everything he’s got.  

In Their Words: “I just wanted to find the best situation, obviously. It seemed that they had success recently and definitely had a chance to make a run for the Stanley Cup. That was huge for me. I’ve heard a lot of great things about the character of the guys in the room with the Bruins. I’ve always wanted to play here and be close to home and be close to my family. My parent, my grandparents, and my brother and all that so it’s just a win-win and a dream come true.” –Chris Wagner, on the process behind signing with his hometown Bruins on the July 1 open of free agency. 

Overall Outlook: The Bruins let Tim Schaller walk away in free agency, so they had to go after another physical, energy player for their fourth line. They found that in Wagner for a similar level of pay at $1.25 million per season, and are once again betting on the player to come into his own during his time with the Black and Gold. It’s a bonus that he’s a local kid just like Schaller, and the hope is that he’ll have the same level of success on and off the ice that Schaller did before parlaying it into a contract with the Vancouver Canucks. If Wagner plays the same way he did last season with Anaheim and New York, both the player and the team should be happy with the level of performance over the next couple of seasons. Bruins fans love players that are willing to take the body and work hard, and that is Chris Wagner several times over.

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Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Morning Skate: Who ya got in draft of hockey movie characters?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading as training camp skates a little closer and summer winds down.

*Fun little exercise from Barstool Sports where the NHL has an expansion draft to pick up hockey movie characters. I was, however, a little disappointed to see that the Bruins got somebody from Mystery, Alaska (not one of my fav hockey movies) instead of Ross “The Boss” Rhea, who has Black and Gold written all over him.

*A Q&A with Dallas Stars captain Jamie Benn where he talks about anything and everything ahead of an important season for the Stars organization.

*Tim Benz doesn’t want to see anybody else ever wear No. 71 or No. 68 for the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think it’s a safe bet we won’t see that.  

*Pro Hockey Talk says to expect a huge year from Canadiens forward Max Pacioretty no matter where he plays. Count me as a little skeptical on that one.

*So how good is Colton Parayko? Varying NHL talent evaluators offer variations on a “Ummm, pretty good” theme.

*For something completely different: RIP to the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who I will forever remember for crushing her scene in the Blues Brothers. She was the real deal.

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