John Hefti/USA TODAY Sports

Bruins 3, Sharks 1: Jake DeBrusk powers way to successful Cali finish

Ty Anderson
November 19, 2017 - 3:01 am

Bruins rookie Jake DeBrusk did not like sitting as a healthy scratch last week.

It took a little bit for the box score to show it, too, but a team-leading two points and four shots on goal in a 3-1 victory over the Sharks on Saturday confirmed just that. 

It was with the Bruins in an 0-1 hole -- which would’ve been 0-2 had it not been for a successful challenge from Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy following a would-be Sharks goal scored just 1:02 into the first period -- that DeBrusk first got on his horse.

Matched up against the Sharks’ Brent Burns at the attacking blue line, the 20-year-old DeBrusk dangled through Burns’ legs with speed, and got far enough ahead of two outstretched Sharks to get in on San Jose netminder Aaron Dell all alone. Forced to go into the splits (and taken out of play due to some incidental contact with the barreling DeBrusk), Dell came through and made the initial stop on Boston’s No. 74, but was unable to stop Peter Cehlarik from scoring his first NHL goal while a seated DeBrusk watched from behind the net.

The game-tying goal held after a challenge, too.

And in a game short on momentum shifts that favored the Bruins (they never had a period with double-digit shot totals and relied heavily on d-zone clears), DeBrusk somehow managed to create anxiety for Burns and the Sharks just moments later.

Beating Burns for a loose puck, DeBrusk stormed towards Dell, and somewhat easily roofed home his fourth goal of the year, notched just 4:29 after the Cehlarik goal.

Helped by those results to his name, DeBrusk remained in the rotation, and finished his night with 21 shifts and 15:49 of time on ice on a line with David Krejci and Cehlarik.

But the results and subsequent ice-time really came as a result of DeBrusk taking what the Bruins told him to work on -- his skating game and relentless pursuit of pucks -- to heart and applying it to each and every game of this road swing.

While not highly publicized or noted by the common viewer, it’s obvious DeBrusk is emerging as one of the B’s best when it comes to generating scoring chances from the high-danger areas of the ice. But it’s tough to consistently get those chances and opportunities for tangible results when chasing plays or not forcing the issue into shots and looks for himself or his linemates, which is when the second-year pro (and first-year NHLer) can and has run into trouble. 

You’d love to see the results like you did Saturday almost every night, and nights like this certainly make you wonder why DeBrusk doesn’t simply run people over every single night (he made a Norris finalist look straight-up silly in this game), but it simply hasn’t been possible out of the gate.

One of the reasons is an obvious one: He’s a young player still trying to adjust to the NHL. But the biggest reason is that injuries have often jumbled DeBrusk’s role around beyond recognition. Some nights, and on perfectly healthy nights for Cassidy's group, he’s a second-line winger riding with Krejci. That allows him to get to prime scoring areas of the ice with a bit less resistance given the defensive focus typically put on the patient Krejci and his strong cycling game. Other nights, DeBrusk becomes a de facto fourth-line net-front guy whose game is going to be centered around strong skating and annoying forechecking skills (y’know, the little things that even some veterans have yet to fully accept or consistently display).

But there’s clearly a sweet spot to be found in the middle, with attitudes and attributes from both of those roles proving useful for what the Bruins want to do (especially when you’re talking about Krejci’s left-side option on the second line) right now, and DeBrusk found it.

And with that, he found some extra shifts in crunch-time.

Bruins netminder Anton Khudobin stopped all but one of the 37 shots thrown his way.

The performance bumped Khudobin’s season save percentage up from .928 to .935, too, which is now the NHL’s best mark among goalies with at least eight games played.

The Big Bad Blog is presented by:

 Technology Decisions Aren't Black and White. Think Red. Click here for more.

Comments ()