By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Jake DeBrusk’s postgame voice had a hoarse tone to its usual Western Canadian flair late Wednesday night.
That’s the price of scoring two goals — including the game-winner in a third-period comeback — in a must-win Game 7.
But before we get back to DeBrusk, here’s a largely useless story: The Bruins were playing a Saturday matinee at the Nassau Coliseum and staying at the Marriott next to the arena in Mar. 2010. Brad Marchand was with the team as a last-second recall from the P-Bruins. And there he sat in the lobby of a Long Island Marriott, presumably waiting to find out if they had an extra room to accommodate the spare part of the Boston roster. I’m not quite sure how that situation ended for Marchand and the Bruins (maybe he crashed on Greg Zanon’s floor), but it was interesting to see countless B’s fans calling the hotel their own for the weekend breeze right by Marchand. They didn’t have a clue who this 5-foot-9 dude in a suit was, and they probably still would not have known had he been in his uniform.
Jump ahead 15 months later and Marchand couldn’t go anywhere without being recognized. His post-Cup antics were well known, and his (surely drunken) rap-along to Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow” at the Stanley Cup parade (the biggest parade in Boston sports history) remains everything you need to know about that summer-long party.
That singalong was possible because Marchand, then a fresh-faced rookie trying to make his way in the NHL after some minor-league seasoning, put the Bruins on his back in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Something that the 21-year-old DeBrusk has shown early signs of being able to pull off for these Bruins.
In a Game 7 where so many of Boston’s top skaters struggled to get their game going, especially in the second period, DeBrusk remained a model of consistency. He put about $15 million of David Krejci and Rick Nash on his back early and contributed with energetic shifts and puck-hounding that is simply infuriating to anybody going against him.
He collected the first Boston goal of the night, a power-play tip through Frederik Andersen, and then came through with the game-winner behind a drive that had the Leafs’ Jake Gardiner simply spinning himself out of action.
“He’s been real greasy, as advertised. And, he had his legs the whole series,” Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy said of DeBrusk’s impact on Game 7. “The issue we had with Jake during the year was that consistent push, use your legs, use your feet because he’s young and he’s got them. He can really get on pucks and make people uncomfortable, so I was happy for him. He’s a good kid, he’s worked hard, and he’s really contributing for us.”
Including the effort that bounced the Maple Leafs out of postseason contention, DeBrusk’s first postseason series ended with an absurd five goals, seven points, 22 hits, and 11 shots on goal in seven games. Besides the impressive point-per-game totals, you also saw two things develop as the series went on. One? The Maple Leafs noticed DeBrusk was a menace and began targeting him in every possible way. And two? You saw DeBrusk love that challenge, at one point smiling right in Roman Polak’s face, as if to say he wanted more of it.
For a team full of players on stages that could very well be too big for them, DeBrusk has proven beyond capable.
“He’s… there’s something inside of him that not many guys have. He hounds the puck. He stays on it,” Bruins defenseman Torey Krug said of DeBrusk. “We saw it all throughout the series, whether it was up in Toronto, that play he made where he’s climbing down the boards and three guys take a run at him and he hits a guy back door.
“It’s… when he wants it he’s going to get it so, he’s a great player for us.”
But there are people within the Boston front office — some of whom have been mocked relentlessly for taking DeBrusk over players such as Mat Barzal and Kyle Connor among others — who always knew Jake had this side to his game.
“Our scouts were adamant in the players that we chose in that draft. Jake was identified as the guy that they wanted to draft,” Bruins general manager Don Sweeney recalled of DeBrusk’s selection in 2015. “The reasons, probably last night, a lot of the same reasons. We got a message from one of his former coaches that he knew that was in Jake.
“He’s got a combination – we call it a little greasiness to get to the hard areas of the ice. He’s got a deceptive speed about him, and he wants to score goals. He has scored in the past. Even last year, he had an awful lot of chances to score goals in the early part of the year in Providence and they weren’t going in; he was frustrated about it, but the shot volume and the opportunities were there, so we just kept encouraging him, and understand the process that he’ll get there,” Sweeney continued. “Last night is a perfect example of that in both situations; it could’ve been easy play to stand behind the goal line when that puck rotates out top, but he didn’t. He got to where he’s supposed to, what’s been preached from our coaches. So then, there’s the coaching, there’s the development and then the player buy-in in that situation. And then, obviously, the individual effort on the second goal was pretty special.”
“It was incredible,” Marchand said of DeBrusk’s game-winner. “He has been a big player for our team all year. You could tell he was feeling it tonight – all series actually – he was a big player for us. When he got that speed going, he can be very dangerous with that puck, so beautiful goal by him, incredible game, and he stepped up big for our team.”
Much like Marchand in 2011, the way DeBrusk can impact a game comes with electricity. It comes with momentum, energy, and plays greater than the ceiling that a first-timer should have on their game. And it’s an absolute treat for teammates that have seen him develop from a shy training camp hopeful to a legit game-breaking playoff talent.
He’s become the unexpected heartbeat of a run that will have at least four more games.
With DeBrusk expected to continue to do whatever he needs to do for this teammates, which is nothing new.
If you want to know a little bit about DeBrusk the affable teammate, too, here’s this: the Bruins are often asked to submit songs they consider to be their ‘#BruinsBeat’ to air on the Garden jumbotron during stoppages in play. Most guys pick songs they listen to as part of their pregame playlist. DeBrusk? He picked ‘Transportin” by Kodak Black. Part of his reason for that was because it was the B’s post-win locker room song for a little while earlier this season.
Consider it another way DeBrusk attempts to fire his team up beyond goals, sliding windmill celebrations, and smiles.
And it’s also a song DeBrusk — always singing when on the ice or on the bench, even if he doesn’t know the words — would surely love to rap in June.
If his voice can handle it, of course.
Ty Anderson 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 Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.