By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
A frustrated Bruce Cassidy wouldn't name names when discussing a lukewarm effort in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the Flames.
"I thought some guys came to play and some guys didn’t," Cassidy, who paused for a moment to collect his thoughts, said. "Didn’t break a sweat, some of them it looked like. I’m sure there was effort, they were trying, they were just in between, couldn’t execute or whatever. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t good enough."
But it wasn't hard to find those names for him. Especially one in particular: Jake DeBrusk.
Cassidy's go-to combo on the second line, neither DeBrusk nor David Krejci seemed to have any jump in that contest, and with Karson Kuhlman asked to fill-in for trade deadline pickup Ondrej Kase for at least one more night, the results were ugly. So ugly that Cassidy abandoned this one-two midway through the game, and moved Nick Ritchie (skating in just his first game with the team) up to Krejci's left while moving DeBrusk down to the left of the Charlie Coyle-Anders Bjork duo on line three.
Make no mistake about it: It was not a promotion for Ritchie, but a demotion for DeBrusk.
"Krejci and DeBrusk haven’t produced a whole lot lately, so it’s just get a guy away from a guy for a while, see if it loosens them up," Cassidy said of flipping DeBrusk and Ritchie on the left-side depth chart. "Sometimes it works; tonight, it did not."
That demotion will bleed into Thursday, too, as DeBrusk is set to begin his night with Charlie Coyle on the third line.
It's hardly an overreaction to a flat night, either, as DeBruk's struggles were not a Tuesday anything-but-special.
In fact, DeBrusk has been cold for entirely too long, with zero points in eight straight contests, and just one goal and one assist in his last 11 contests overall. (This is basically the complete of DeBrusk's run this time last calendar year, with seven goals and 13 points in 13 games in Feb. 2019. That was the start of the surge that saw DeBrusk finish his season as an (improbable) 27-goal scorer despite an early-season freeze.) That 11-game run frost has also featured zero goals on 22 five-on-five shots, and DeBrusk ranks eighth on the team in high-danger chances (eight) over that run.
Focus on just that aforementioned eight-game pointless drought and DeBrusk hasn't been on the ice for a goal (but has been on the ice for four goals against) in his last 99 minutes and change of five-on-five play. This has been with a ton of offensive-zone starts and the Bruins repeatedly putting DeBrusk (and Krejci) in positions to succeed. It hasn't come.
It's worth mentioning that his isn't new. DeBrusk has always been a streaky-as-hell player. You've seen this throughout his career, and this year has been no different. But the highs have become Everest and the lows are buying property in Atlantis.
Since Dec. 31, DeBrusk has totaled seven goals in 24 games. But three of those goals came in a two-game stretch from Jan. 9 to Jan. 11, and then another three of them came in a three-game stretch from Jan. 21 to Feb. 1.
It's not enough for the Bruins, a team that's been the best in the league despite some serious five-on-five droughts and struggles at times this season, to be happy with No. 74. Not with his number featured on their second line, anyway.
So it's off to the third line, where DeBrusk's high-motor will need to arrive, come with a sweat, and get him back on the map.