In creating the Bruins’ four forward lines in one’s mind, putting Jake DeBrusk back with David Krejci makes all the sense in the world.
Brad Marchand will obviously play with Patrice Bergeron. The Bruins have been trying to create a heavy third line, so playing Nick Ritchie with Charlie Coyle and Craig seems logical. And you wouldn’t want to keep DeBrusk’s soft hands, which produced 27 goals two seasons ago, on the fourth line.
So not only does it seem like the right choice, it’s close to the only choice, and that’s what coach Bruce Cassidy has done.
But the chemistry between DeBrusk and Krejci, so promising in the first two seasons of DeBrusk’s career, went stale at times last season, and it went that way often enough for Cassidy to move DeBrusk to the Coyle line on a semi-permanent basis before the regular season was paused in March.
So far in camp, things seem stabilized for the second line, thanks in part to Ondrej Kase fitting in at right wing. Ending the cycle of new right wings every couple of weeks should help, and the trio has looked god so far. Meanwhile, Cassidy put a lot of the onus on DeBrusk to become more consistent so that it can continue that way. Consistency’s a trait that’s been elusive for the talented 24-year-old DeBrusk, who signed a a two-year bridge deal worth $3.675 million annually in the offseason.
“The first two years there were bouts of inconsistency as well,” Cassidy said Friday. “We look at it as Krejci’s been in the league a long time. He’s pretty consistent. And we know that putting young guys beside him, there are going to be some ups and downs. It’s just life in the NHL.
“We expect Jake now to be more of a guy that we rely on every day. He’s been in the league. Last year, maybe the contract affected him. That’s entirely possible when you’re younger. But he signed a new deal. We believe in him and I hope that now he recognizes that he needs to be more of a consistent performer. He might not score every night or make plays. He’s going to have some off nights. But he has to recognize that, ‘hey, I’m a Boston Bruin that’s been in the league, and they’re relying on me to be consistent. I’m not a first-year guy anymore.’”
It was not a horrible year for DeBrusk in ’19-20. He had 19 goals in 65 games and no doubt would have cracked the 20-goal mark, something that should be an expectation every year for a player of his talent.
Krejci likes how his line has played so far, and believes communication is the key for success.
“I guess we just have to talk, try to understand each other a little bit more on the ice,” said Krejci. “Our game plan might be a little different now with a different D group, some new guys in the lineup. We’ve already talked about it a lot, but I’m sure we’ll touch on some things.
“The main thing is to communicate and try to be on the same page, help each other out. If we do these things, we’ll play with the puck more and our offensive skills will take over and we should help the team put some pucks in the net.”
Hockey in a COVID era
Because of a COVID outbreak, the Dallas Stars had their first few scheduled games postponed, driving home the fact that this season will not be played in the safety of the bubble.
Cassidy said that his players and coaches must remain hypercautious, but danger lurks.