If the Boston Bruins are going to have a successful 2021-22 NHL season and make a deep run in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they need a bounce-back year from Jake DeBrusk.
The third-line left winger got off to a great start Saturday night when the Bruins opened their regular season schedule against Tyler Seguin's Dallas Stars at TD Garden.
The score was tied at one in the third period when DeBrusk put Boston ahead with a tally 4:43 into the frame. He drove hard to the net and was rewarded.
The Bruins held on for a 3-1 win.
DeBrusk had a disappointing 2020-21 campaign. He tallied just 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 41 games. He didn't look like the same player who averaged 20.67 goals over this first three seasons.
Inconsistency was a problem for him last year, as the 2015 first-round pick often went long stretches without scoring goals, and when he wasn't finding the back of the net he didn't do enough in other areas to positively impact the outcome of games. He was a healthy scratch at one point as well.
The Bruins have been too top-heavy up front in recent seasons, particularly in the playoffs. You can't overly rely on your two top lines, there has to be some quality depth behind it. The third line will be a very important one for the B's all season, and DeBrusk will be counted on to drive its goal scoring.
So far, so good.
"It's always nice to help the team win," DeBrusk said in his postgame press conference. "I thought the preseason went fairly well, but it's just preseason. You want to get on the board as fast as possible. The mindset is working. Seems like whatever is going on with our line, leaning on Nick (Foligno) and Erik (Haula) it's been very helpful for me."
The DeBrusk-Haula-Foligno line played 8:19 at 5-on-5 Saturday night and held a 6-2 advantage in shot attempts, a 4-1 edge in shots on net and a 4-1 lead in scoring chances, in addition to DeBrusk's goal.
A confident DeBrusk can be a tough player to defend -- just ask the 2018 Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins get a real boost when he's playing with confidence, throwing around his weight as a power forward and being aggressive looking to score.
The objective for DeBrusk after a strong season debut is building on this performance and becoming a more consistent offensive player.
"I think it's good for the group," Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy told reporters after the win. "When Jake's in a good place, he's got personality. He's a good kid and he's good for our locker room. Part of being in a good place is feeling good about your game, and tonight he was good."