By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Jake DeBrusk took a beating on Thursday night against the Maple Leafs, but it sounds like the Bruins' rugged young winger escaped a serious injury. Unfortunately, he still couldn't escape from one of the key mistakes of a disappointing loss.
DeBrusk shined in last year's series win over Toronto, but Game 1 on Thursday at TD Garden felt like a collective haymaker to the 22-year-old's face. Most of the pain train barreled through in a single game-changing sequence in the second period.
It started when DeBrusk took a stick to the face that gave the Bruins a power play, but he stayed on the ice. After the Bruins gained the offensive zone, DeBrusk tried to handle the puck between his legs as a pass attempt from David Pastrnak pinballed to him at the point. (Head coach Bruce Cassidy said after the game that DeBrusk was out of position and was supposed to go wide.) Mitch Marner pounced and snatched it from DeBrusk to spark a breakaway, then drew a penalty shot as DeBrusk tripped him just before the net. Marner scored with a filthy move on the penalty shot to make it 2-1 Leafs.
"You know, unfortunately Jake tried to create a loose puck situation," said Cassidy of the turnover and penalty shot. "I don’t fault his effort. Bergy won a Selke for a reason; I think that’s part of the learning curve for the younger guys and we can certainly discuss it in the heat of the moment and that’s what Jake decided to do."
Potentially worse was that DeBrusk appeared to be in significant pain after crashing into the boards on the Marner breakaway. He briefly left the Bruins bench during the second period but eventually returned.
Fortunately for the Bruins, DeBrusk told reporters after the game that he's OK. He also compartmentalized his costly turnover as a learning experience to refocus for Game 2.
"Hundred percent," DeBrusk said. "I’m feeling alright, yeah, it wasn’t fun causing the turnover there and then seeing him on the breakaway. I was just trying to get back, trying to make a play, and obviously didn’t like the result of that and then he scored. I think that was a turning point in the game as well, and something that I needed and something that’s going to help me in this series."
DeBrusk finished with two shots on goal in 15:19 of ice time. To be fair, you can't possibly pin the whole loss on him. The Bruins committed an absurd amount of defensive breakdowns through the neutral zone, allowing the Leafs to get a forward completely behind them for a stretch pass and breakaway or odd-man rush. But after Marner's second goal, the floodgates opened as a promising-looking period went haywire for the B's. Hence, the "turning point" that DeBrusk referenced.
But ultimately, the most important thing for DeBrusk is that he avoided a major injury. He toughed it out after a short absence, but it hopefully shouldn't limit him in Game 2. And the Bruins better hope that's the case, because improvements are needed up and down the roster.
"Yeah, obviously not what you want to start the series, but in saying that you’ve got to keep an even mind and take the things that made them successful and try to adjust," DeBrusk said. "I think that’s the biggest thing with series is you adjust along with different games and different things like that, so that’s kind of how we’re taking it."
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 protected].