Jake DeBrusk had close to a dozen scoring chances in the first three games of Boston’s playoff series against the Carolina Hurricanes, so clearly he was doing some things right.
But the left winger also hadn’t been able to cash in for any actual goals despite eight shots on net, two hit posts and a missed empty net headed into Game 4, so clearly something needed to change.
The 23-year-old might have been feeling some good, old-fashioned frustration headed into Game 4 due to the missed opportunities and the need for him to step up with the secondary scoring with David Pastrnak out of the lineup, but DeBrusk wasn’t saddled with any of that after the third period comeback on Monday night.
Instead, DeBrusk sparked the comeback by bookending Boston’s four-goal outburst in less than seven minutes with a pair of goals in the 4-3 win that finally got his offensive production off and running in this postseason.
“Pretty much after I missed that empty net [there was urgency]. It’s one of those things, like you said, this year [I had been] going through some dry patches. This is not the time to have those. Obviously, it’s a little part of the game,” said DeBrusk. “It’s a big part when you score and help the team win. But in saying that, I think that if I can play a good forechecking style with [Krejci and Kase] on my line, I think that opens up space for them to generate [offense].
“We’ve had some pretty good looks in the series. I just wanted to number one, try to find my game and just help the team. I kind of got lucky on the first one.”
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, but the first goal was also pure athleticism as DeBrusk chipped a puck to himself past Haydn Fleury and beat James Reimer five hole before going vertical and flying through the air in celebration. Without blazing speed and a good pair of hands, the first goal doesn’t ever even materialize for DeBrusk.
The first DeBrusk score preceded Charlie McAvoy’s game-changing hit and a couple more goals that gave the B’s the lead before DeBrusk finished things off with a slick passing play where David Krejci, Ondrej Kase and DeBrusk all touched the puck before the left winger scored again.
The final DeBrusk score ended up being the game-winner, and now gives DeBrusk three goals and 15 shots on net in seven games during this postseason including the round robin games where he scored as well. That’s good news for a Bruins team that desperately needs what DeBrusk can provide in bunches once he goes on a hot streak. The secondary scoring from DeBrusk will be key to Boston’s success as the B's go deeper into the postseason, and it should be there given the chemistry DeBrusk, Krejci and Kase have shown to this point in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That’s all good news for DeBrusk — and good news for the Bruins as well.
“Especially for his game,” said Brad Marchand, when asked how good it was to see the left winger get on the board in Game 4. “He kind of thrives when he gets a goal and gets a bounce. He feeds off that and gets a ton of confidence. That’s when he’s at his best.
“We just knew he needed one and he’s been all around it. He’s been playing really well. Has had a lot of really good, prime opportunities that he normally puts in. He came up big when we needed it. He did a great job [in Game 4]. He really stepped up in a big way. I love the fire even — he starts battling a lot harder and competing harder and he was more engaged in the game. A great game by him. We needed him to step up and he did, and came through when it mattered.”
Now it’s a matter of DeBrusk and Co. consistently generating those offensive chances and finishing a few for good measure. It looks like they are going to keep coming for DeBrusk, Krejci and Kase, but they are also going to play better, deeper and bigger defenses than what they currently face with the Carolina Hurricanes.
It might not be this easy against Tampa or a stifling defensive team like the Islanders, and that means they’ll need to dig even deeper.
The Bruins are 7-3 in the 10 playoff games over the last three seasons when DeBrusk scores a goal, underscoring the importance of his role providing offense in those rare instances when Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Pastrnak are being held in check.
And against those better defenses, it will be even more important that DeBrusk continues to kick in that secondary offense and maybe even “kind of get lucky” every once in a while like he did in Monday’s third period outburst in Game 4.