By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
David Pastrnak has grabbed all the attention among the Bruins’ stable of impressive young talent, and for good reason. But the B’s have another dynamic winger who’s barely the legal drinking age in 21-year-old Jake DeBrusk. And like “Pasta”, he’s also taken his game to another level in the first round of the playoffs.
Watching DeBrusk play in this series against the Maple Leafs can make you forget that he’s a rookie getting his first taste of playoff action. But his game in many ways is built for the playoff grind. He’s an aggressive forechecker who can be strong along the boards, which carries nicely into springtime hockey and translates especially well against a finesse team like Toronto.
But DeBrusk hasn’t just maintained his solid play as the Bruins’ No. 2 left wing into the postseason. He’s looked unfazed by the proverbial bright lights, and at times has looked like one of the Bruins’ best players. Certainly the best player on his line, and he plays with Rick Nash and David Krejci.
If you need one stat to throw at people to explain DeBrusk’s ascension as an impact playoff performer for the Bruins, use this: through four games, DeBrusk leads the Bruins with a 61.54 percent shot attempt rate (a.k.a. Corsi) when the team has played from behind. For context, you want to be over 50 percent in this category – and anything over 60 percent is dominant.
It’s dangerous to take one stat and use it to tell an entire story. There’s a lot more to DeBrusk’s game than a number on a sheet. But that stat does tell you one simple fact: when the Bruins have trailed in this series – a segmented span of 33:44 in Game 3 – DeBrusk has possessed the puck at the highest rate on the team.
The kid attacks. He’s not afraid. If he is, he certainly hasn’t shown it. Not when the Bruins were down.
Of course, DeBrusk hasn’t broken the lamp like Pastrnak and the Bruins’ top line has in the series. But two goals and an assist is a fine start for any player in his first four playoff games as a 21-year-old. And he really should’ve had a second assist, on what would have been arguably the most spectacular play of the series had Krejci finished:
Look at DeBrusk here. What a player. Sets the table perfectly for Krejci who jumps the gun and fans on a sure goal. pic.twitter.com/QEONrBbGAA— Boston Pucks (@BostonPucks) April 17, 2018
When DeBrusk isn’t scoring, he’s throwing his body around, too. He’s fourth on the team in the series with 13 hits, behind only bruisers Kevan Miller (19), David Backes, and Noel Acciari (14 each). He’s been by far the most physical rookie on a team peppered with them (Charlie McAvoy has seven).
The Bruins have a chance to close out the Leafs in five games on Saturday night, and it’s mainly on the strength of their dominant first line. But the impact that DeBrusk has made in his first playoff experience shouldn’t go unnoticed. And if the Bruins get behind again, you may notice him even more.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at email@example.com.