The Boston Bruins are in the midst of their longest break of the season, as they have not played since their 5-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb 1. With nine days in between games, the break has given Jake Debrusk some extra time as he draws closer to a return to the lineup. The Bruins forward played the hero role at this 2023 Winter Classic, scoring two goals, including the game-winner in the dying moments of the contest. Unfortunately for Debrusk and the Bruins, he fractured his fibula during the game, causing the winger to miss nearly six weeks of action. The 26-year-old was enjoying the best season of his career at the time of the injury, and a return to the lineup will be great news for the club.
DeBusk On Pace For Career Year Prior to Injury
Before suffering his leg injury, Debrusk was on pace to set career highs in many categories, including goals (27), assists (27), points (43), power-play goals (eight), power-play assists (seven), shots (184), blocks (26), +/- rating (13) and hits (70). The speedy winger had scored 16 goals and 14 assists for 30 points in 36 games, putting him on pace for 36 goals, 32 assists and 68 points over a full 82-game season. Of course, as fortunes would have it, Debrusk’s injury will set him back from hitting those numbers. However, the 26-year-old can still break many of his previous career highs as he draws closer to returning to game action.
Debrusk has become a staple on the Bruins’ power play, and the results have been undeniable for the forward as he is just three power-play goals and one power-play assist shy of tying previous career highs. The Bruins’ historic season has also seen Debrusk flourish in other areas of the ice as he was on pace to obliterate his previous career best of 70 hits. While showing a level of physicality many may not take notice of, with 51 hits in 36 games, he was on pace to record 116 hits on the season. He has also shown signs of growth on the defensive side of the puck, with 14 blocked shots and a plus-15.
Debrusk has found a home on the Bruins’ top line alongside Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and is clearly thriving under the Bruins’ new head coach Jim Montgomery. Prior to suffering his injury, he was also playing a career-high in average ice time, averaging 17:08 per game this season.
With a return coming in the next week, he should find himself nearing the 30-goal mark by the end of the season, barring any lingering issues or setbacks due to his injury.
Becoming a Key Part of Bruins’ Success
Debrusk has made the most of his opportunity playing on the Bruins’ top line with Bergeron and Marchand. After a season in which the future of the young forward’s tenure with Boston looked like it may end, with a heavily publicized trade request, the winger has become a pivotal player for the club this season.
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With Debrusk out of the lineup, the Bruins posted a 10-3-1 record which by usual standards is quite spectacular. However, this year’s Bruins are setting the bar at unprecedented levels, as they had only four regulation losses in 36 games prior to his injury. Bergeron’s offensive output has also declined with the winger out of the lineup. The Bruins captain averaged 0.81 points per game (PPG) before dropping to 0.57 PPG during Debrusk’s 14-game absence.
The Bruins’ power-play efficiency has also slowed down since he has been sidelined, scoring at an 18.4% success rate with seven goals on 38 power-play opportunities. That is quite a bit lower than the 27.2% success rate the club was clicking at before with 37 goals on 136 power-play opportunities.
His impact was on full display during the Winter Classic at Fenway Park as he scored the Bruins’ two lone goals in a 2-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Boston look as though they may suffer a defeat to the visiting Penguins entering the third period and trailing by one. Debrusk then played the hero and stole the show tying the game 7:46 into the closing frame and scoring the eventual game-winner with just 2:24 remaining in regulation. His coach had nothing but praise for the Bruin’s Winter Classic hero following the game, saying “he’s a lot tougher than people think. And he’s more committed than people are aware of. And because of those things, his game is growing. He’s matured, and you can see it.”
DeBrusk’s Return to Action Imminent
Despite Montgomery reporting prior to the All-Star break that he expected Debrusk to return to the lineup against the Washington Capitals, it’s now more likely that his return will be delayed until the team’s road trip to Dallas. Speaking of delays, part of the reason Debrusk isn’t expected to play on Saturday is because his flight was delayed while travelling back to Boston following a visit with his family in Edmonton over the break.
Whether he makes a surprise comeback against the Capitals or fans have to wait until Tuesday against the Stars, Debrusk’s return to action is imminent, and when he does return, he will provide a huge boost to the NHL-leading Bruins.
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