Bruins DeBrusk Returns To Lineup As Club Gets Healthy For Playoff Run

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

By: Cam McCusker | Follow Me On Twitter @CSthinks

Jake DeBrusk made his return to the Bruins’ lineup on Saturday after missing five games due to a lower-body injury he sustained against Carolina. An injury that, after sustaining, DeBrusk played with en route to scoring a goal and setting up the overtime winner with an incredible pass to linemate David Krejci.

 

Until Saturday, the Bruins had gone 2-3-0 since DeBrusk’s injury and had lost three straight entering their tilt against Columbus. This was the second time that the Black and Gold squared off against the Jackets in less than a week, and Columbus had handled the B’s in their matchup on March 12th, with Boston reeling from injuries.

In their first meeting, the Bruins went down 5-1 fairly early in the contest and, despite a solid push to even the score, ended up falling 7-4. While the game displayed the amount of compete that lives within the walls of the Boston locker room, it unfortunately also showed how shorthanded they were. Their weakened offensive punch failed to measure up to a healthy Columbus team.

Saturday’s game was a different story. While it was certainly a game that featured many fewer goals and better team defense and goaltending, the impact that DeBrusk made on the game was palpable.

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( Photo Credit: Maddie Meyer/ Getty Images )

The Obvious Benefits

Quite frankly, Jake The Snake rejoining the lineup is a horrible sign for teams in the East. Not only because he alone makes the Bruins lineup more effective in myriad ways, but because his return is the first domino to fall (or stand up again) in a series of key players on the Bruins that are coming back from injury.

DeBrusk’s return to the first powerplay unit not only adds skill and finishing to said unit, but it also moves a skilled player in Heinen back to the second powerplay unit, improving PP2 as well.

DeBrusk’s return to the second line moves players that play a more natural bottom-six role down to the third line, which makes the Bruins deeper throughout their entire middle six.

DeBrusk’s presence on the forecheck puts significant pressure on defensemen and eliminates their ability to beat him with skating. He shuts down the opponent and has a knack to aggressively hunts down pucks.

DeBrusk’s ability to stretch the ice with his own speed opens up the neutral zone for the Bruins and facilitates offensive-zone entries with possession.

DeBrusk’s ability to handle the puck down low extends offensive zone possession time and wears down the opposition. This lightens the load of the makeshift third line that will then likely be playing against worn down opponents, thus mitigating the possible negatives of players that are unfamiliar with one another. More time in the O-zone means more rest for the Bruins’ defensemen. This means fresher legs and better d-zone coverage.

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( Photo Credit: Elise Amendola/ AP )

The Pending Danger

Yep. DeBrusk brings a ton to the Bruins’ lineup when he’s playing at full capacity. Look at the tear he was on before he got injured. Look at his playoff performance against the Leafs last year. The kid is an absolute gamer, and you can see the intensity with which he approaches each game in the celebrations that, without fail, follow all of his goals. I would say he is made of pure energy, but there’s quite a bit of skill thrown in there as well.

So the obvious benefits of him being back are beyond beneficial (great alliteration by me, don’t mention it). But the tacit implications of his return to the lineup stretch much farther than his own individual impact on hockey games.

As DeBrusk was one of 6 Bruins to be sidelined with injuries diagnosed with short-term recovery periods, his resurgence only indicates that there is more firepower making its way back to the Black and Gold lineup. Accompanying DeBrusk are 2 more top-six forwards, in David Pastrnak (PastrBack? I’ll see myself out) and Marcus Johansson. While admittedly these two don’t carry the same weight in their respective impact on the Bruins attack, when the Bruins’ top two lines are healthy they are among the most effective in the league. In my opinion, they are the deepest top-six in the league when fully healthy.

 

But also in the current short-term injury crew are Kevan Miller, Matt Grzelcyk, and Torey Krug. In other words, a tough and reliable yet strong skating stay at home defenseman in Miller; an expectation-exceeding, smooth skating puck mover (Grz); a powerplay quarterback who makes a strong first pass (Krug). These three defensemen are all entities that have proven just how effective they can be to a healthy Bruins lineup. DeBrusk’s return from injury only signals that they are all that much closer to coming back themselves.

When the Bruins’ forward unit is whole, and their D-core is similarly healthy, then they are deep enough up front to bring it to the best in the league, and solid enough on the back end to stifle explosive offenses. We were able to see glimpses of the team’s potential against San Jose and Tampa Bay before the B’s got bit by the injury bug.

With the return of DeBrusk, comes the depth that the Bruins’ roster has not benefitted from in many years. Opponents haven’t needed to ready themselves for a Bruins team so well-rounded, and it’s my expectation that few teams, if any, will be able to adequately match up.

 

Simply put, DeReturn of DeBrusk is a big one for DeBruins.

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