As other Eastern Conference teams like the New York Rangers and Toronto Maple Leafs boosted their lineups with impactful trades, the Bruins got a boost of their own Saturday with the return of Jake DeBrusk.
Out of action with a lower leg fracture since being the star of the Bruins Winter Classic victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on New Year’s Day, it took DeBrusk all of 2:19 to find the back of the net in his return.
“I was focused and determined, I’ve been waiting for the game for a while,” said DeBrusk. “I just wanted to get a goal, get the first one.”
In the 17 games the Bruins played without DeBrusk, they won 12 of them, certainly showing the depth they have. But the return of DeBrusk is a welcoming one. DeBrusk was back atop the Bruins’ top line next to Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron.
The trickle-down effect of DeBrusk’s return was felt across all four lines as the Bruins got six goals from five different goal scorers, Trent Frederic picking up a pair.
“It’s nice being back, being part of it because I sure as heck missed it,” DeBrusk said. “It’s nice to be joining a team that’s absolutely rolling. It’s a nice situation to come back into.”
While it’s hard to complain about the Bruins 12-4-1 record without DeBrusk, it was clear the Bruins’ power play missed DeBrusk and his ability to track down pucks and make plays happen.
In DeBrusk’s absence, the Bruins converted on 15.4 percent of their power play opportunities. Only five teams had less success on the power play during that time span.
Overall, the Bruins power play ranks seventh, converting on 24.3 percent on man advantages.
"That's a big-time move, play he makes. That's obviously Pastrnak and Marchy and Bergy. Bergy, everyone doesn't realize how much he keeps plays alive. If he's not where he is, that puck is cleared,” head coach Jim Montgomery said of DeBrusk’s power play strike.
“Instead, he gets his [stick] on it, keeps it in the zone, and then Pasta and Marchy make electric passes and JD finishes off a great play. The poise in and around the net, he's high end."
The initial thought was that DeBrusk would be back in the lineup when the Bruins returned from the All-Star break in Dallas. But a combination of flight delays and his recovery time, DeBrusk sat.
While he could have returned for the Bruins victory in Nashville on Thursday, Montgomery decided to play it safe and bring DeBrusk back in Saturday.
“It’s one of those things where in the game of hockey, it’s such a high pace and there’s lots of different reads and things,” DeBrusk said. “It was a good feeling-out game for sure. It was a big win by our team.”
It’s likely the Bruins add to their roster at the deadline. The addition of depth at the forward and defensive positions seem to be what’s to come.
The Maple Leafs and Rangers have made splashes, immediately improving their respective rosters.
While the return of Jake DeBrusk may not mirror the Rangers trade for Vladimir Tarasenko, it’s exactly what the Bruins needed right now: one of their more consistent forwards back in the lineup.