Jake DeBrusk has never been considered your average goal scorer. His abilities range far beyond what a typical top-six winger usually provides.
Among those attributes is a bit of an ornery side. And for the first time in his young career, the full wrath of that side came out during the second period of the Bruins’ 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders on Saturday night.
After Casey Cizikas delivered a heavy hit on Charlie McAvoy by the Islanders bench in the second period, DeBrusk took exception, stepping in and dropping the gloves for his first career fight. The former first-round pick was issued an instigator penalty and a 10-minute misconduct for his efforts and was forced to watch most of the second period from the Bruins dressing room as he served his 17-minute banishment.
When DeBrusk returned, the more traditional side of his game shone through, too. On his first shift after the penalty, the 21-year-old delivered with a spin-o-rama snipe from the slot for what proved to be the deciding goal.
It was a sequence that could prove to be a defining one for the rookie.
“He comes through there and he sticks up for his teammate, that shows a lot,” said Bruins alternate captain David Backes. “Then to capitalize on a goal after not playing for 17 minutes – I was asking if he jumped on a bike there in the second period or what to keep going, because I know that can be a tough thing to get your feet back under you and get up to speed again.
“He made good of that opportunity and it ends up being the game-winning goal. Two points for us and that’s what we we’re looking for.”
DeBrusk has never been shy to drop the gloves. The 6-foot, 183-pounder fought five times over three seasons in the WHL and twice more with Providence last season. Despite being known more for his offensive prowess, DeBrusk’s rough-and-tumble side is no surprise given the fact that his father, Louie, was once one of the NHL’s premier tough guys – fighting 115 times over his 11-year career.
“It really showed that he’s a great teammate,” said Bruins captain Zdeno Chara. “You don’t have to be a big guy to drop gloves and stand up for your teammate and he did. Good for him, he showed a lot of character in that act. He did pretty well. Obviously the toughness is something he has in his family. It’s a great sign of being part of a good team.”
DeBrusk, who had zero career penalty minutes before the fight, said he believed Cizikas’ hit on McAvoy was clean, but felt it was important to stand up for his fellow rookie.
“I think it was a clean hit, it was just a really hard one and I didn’t like it…I verbally asked him if he wanted to go and he said yes and he dropped his gloves, so that’s how it happened,” said DeBrusk. “It was a bit of a different scenario, to say the least. It was something that happened, and I honestly didn’t try to get an instigator or anything like that.”
It was the type of penalty that Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy was happy to live with.
“I think it’s good for his teammates to know that he’s going to get in there, whether people think it’s right or wrong…he’s in there looking after one of his teammates, so guys appreciate that,” said Cassidy. “At that time and juncture in the game, I think everyone’s fine with it and it will help him in the room.”
Nevertheless, DeBrusk wanted to make up for having to spend 17 minutes in the dressing room. With plenty of jump in his step, DeBrusk returned in the third period and took advantage on his first shift.
“I watched the period in here and just felt a little out of sorts and just wanted to get back in action and make the first shift a good one. Was lucky enough to cash in on a goal,” said DeBrusk.
The tally was a shining example of DeBrusk’s scoring touch. The winger picked up a bouncing puck off a pass from Torey Krug and made his way to the slot, where he spun and fired a blistering wrister by Jaroslav Halak with 13:15 remaining to build a 2-0 lead.
“I just wanted to get the puck on net. I was kind of trying to honestly generate maybe a rebound,” said DeBrusk. “It was kind of a weird play…I didn’t really know where the net was. I kind of had an idea, but I just turned and just shot as hard as I could and it went in.
“It was nice to see that and obviously missing a whole period and then coming back, it was huge.”
It was a look into what could be a very bright future. And a sequence that his teammates certainly won’t forget.
“I thought it was great to see him stepping up for Chuckie there and then getting that goal,” said Patrice Bergeron. “He was in the penalty box for a while and sometimes your legs can get stiff and cold, and he didn’t miss a beat. Then he was ready for when he got a tap on the back, and came back on the ice.
“It was a huge goal for us. We needed that. So kudos to him for stepping up and making those two big plays.”