(Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Joe Travia | Follow me on Twitter @NHLJoeTravia

Welcome to my new series for blackngoldhockey.com, Boston Bruins Film Session! In my 31 years watching hockey, I have found that reading the box score is just a small part of evaluating a player’s overall performance. While the goal highlights are always nice, they are just small moments that happen throughout the course of a 60-minute hockey game. My mission with this series is to look beyond the flashy goal highlights (though those will be there too) in an attempt to better analyze a Boston Bruins player on any given night. I felt a great starting point would be one of the Bruins best performers over the last few months, Jake DeBrusk.

As my colleague Melanie DaSilva wrote, Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk is on Fire. A polarizing figure amongst the Bruins fanbase, the much-maligned DeBrusk has had his struggles in Boston. After starting the year poorly, word leaked out that Debrusk was seeking a fresh start elsewhere and had requested a trade. Five months later, he remains a Bruin, has a new two-year, $8 million deal, and is playing the best hockey of his professional career alongside Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron. On Monday night, April 4th, he scored two goals, including the game-winner, in a 3-2 overtime victory against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s take a look at some of the plays that stood out to me from his game and show how that has led to the improvement in his overall game.

Speed off the rush

If you have watched Jake DeBrusk extensively throughout his career, you know that his game thrives when his feet are moving. While not a player who will dangle around defenseman with his puck handling, DeBrusk excels at creating off the rush when he puts pressure on retreating defensemen. In the first clip, he gathers the puck and attacks quickly, forcing a flat-footed Vladislav Gavrikov to try and step up at the blue line. DeBrusk is able to blow by him and dish it off to Matt Grzelcyk, leading to a near chance. In clip #2, you can see again how his speed makes him a threat. He can turn a quick breakout into an opportunity down the other end simply by turning on the jets, not allowing Zach Werenski a chance to defend.

Keeping possessions alive with positioning and tenacity

While this may look like a bit of a “nothing” play, I can assure you this is the type of thing that Head Coach Bruce Cassidy will love. DeBrusk is in a good position rotating out as third man-high and applies immediate pressure to the Blue Jackets player. He forces a turnover and dumps it back on the net. While nothing comes out of it, extending offensive zone time like this is always beneficial. The Marchand-Bergeron-DeBrusk trio will be getting a healthy dose of the other team’s top lines/defensive pairings come playoff time. The more time you can keep them hemmed in their own zone, the better.

Effort and communication on the backcheck

I LOVED this play by DeBrusk and was glad Andy Brickley pointed it out about 15 seconds later. The communication with Charlie McAvoy to let him know he had Sean Kuraly covered (allowing McAvoy to play tighter on Zach Werenski) was great, but what really stands out is the effort. DeBrusk is essentially at the top of the crease when Kuraly gathers the puck and starts going the other way. Without his effort to get back, there would have been a far more dangerous scoring chance for the Blue Jackets.

Goal scorers touch

A goal scorer’s finish by DeBrusk. He has become adept at holding his right leg in the air to freeze the goalie. Typically, he likes to go top left corner, but here he takes what Merzlikins gives him and buries it five-hole.

Offensive awareness

While most of the commentary has been about Marchand’s hit and McAvoy’s pass (rightly so), DeBrusk deserves praise for reading the play and fading out toward the far blue line, and giving McAvoy the option for the stretch pass. After the hit, all the Blue Jackets players seemed to freeze and lock on to Marchand. DeBrusk does a good job recognizing this and getting into a spot where McAvoy can hit him for the breakaway.

As you can see from this freeze frame, DeBrusk recognized that all five Blue Jackets players were on the right half of the ice, and the nearest defenseman was paying no attention to him. McAvoy has just gathered the puck, and DeBrusk is already letting him know he is open.

Not making the same mistake twice

I had to split this final sequence into two clips due to size, but the message I have here is that I love how DeBrusk doesn’t make the same mistake twice. After trying to force a pass to Hampus Lindholm earlier in the shift that is broken up (top clip), DeBrusk makes no such error on his second chance. He recovers from a slight fumble and buries it behind Merzlikins for the GWG, his second of the night.

So there you have it. Overall, it was a fantastic game from Jake DeBrusk. When he is engaged in all aspects, he can be entertaining to watch. If he continues to play like this, the goals will continue to come, and the Bruins will be a far more dangerous team come playoff time.