David Krejci’s confidence in Jake DeBrusk has never wavered.
They’ve played on the same line for most of the past three seasons, and Krejci has seen DeBrusk go on tears such as during the 2018 playoffs when DeBrusk scored five goals in the first-round series against Toronto.
The promise was there when DeBrusk finished his rookie season with 16 goals and 43 points, then came back the next season and posted 27 goals and 42 points. Last season, though, DeBrusk dipped, scoring 19 goals and 35 points.
When the Bruins hit the ice Thursday for their first scrimmage of this compact preseason, coach Bruce Cassidy kept Krejci and DeBrusk together, on a line with Ondrej Kase. Krejci believed the chemistry that made the combination with DeBrusk potent in previous seasons will be there in due time.
“Every year is different,” Krejci said. “We don’t really want to look in the past. We had some good chemistry before, but now we’ve been skating with Kase as well, and we have some good drills. We had our scrimmage today. We had some good shifts. So it’s coming along. It might take some time but we still got a few more days before the first game.”
Krejci said building chemistry will depend on communication.
“For us, I guess, just kind of talk and try to understand each little bit more on the ice,” he said. “Our game plan might be a little bit different now with a different D group and some new guys in the lineup. We already talked about it a lot, but I’m sure we’ll still touch upon some things.
“The main thing is just communicate and try to get on the same page, help each other out, and if we do these things, then we’ll go play with the puck more and our offensive skills will take over, and we should be able to have the chance to put some pucks in the net.”
Krejci and Kase instantly had a connection, both being from the Czech Republic.
“He’s really good player,” Krejci said. “He’s very smart. He makes plays. He’s quick. And also, we speak the same language, as well. So that helps. He looks good.”
Because the team has been split into two groups because of COVID-19 protocols, Krejci hasn’t been able to see as much of prospect Jack Studnicka as he would like. But with David Pastrnak out, Studnicka was on the top line Thursday with Patrice Bergeron and Anders Bjork, and it was impossible for Krejci not to notice Studnicka’s speed.
“He’s quicker than I am, that’s for sure,” Krejci said. “But he can play. He proved it in the bubble. He can play. So for him, I think it’s going to be about getting more comfortable, he’ll just grow up with each game. He’s got big potential, and it’s just up to him what he’s going to do with that.”
Krejci is entering the final year of a six-year contract. The 14-year-veteran has no intention of retiring, but he didn’t want to discuss whether he and the Bruins have had conversations about a new deal.
“I’m not planning on retiring after the season,” Krejci said. “But I understand with COVID situation, there’s other things more important than me talking about an extension right now.”
With the season opener next Thursday, preparation has been a blur. The Bruins held just three practices before scrimmaging Thursday. The format was two 30-minute periods, and Cassidy was impressed with the pace.
“We didn’t know how it’d play out, if we’d have to shorten it,” he said.
Cassidy noted the positive takeaways, including crisp play in the offensive zone by the defensemen, as well as the areas that needed cleaning up, notably slot coverage. But overall he was pleased with the energy and competitiveness.
“I think guys were trying to do what they were supposed to out there,” he said. “I thought for the first scrimmage after a long time off, I thought it was real good intensity and pace. That’s the first thing we’re looking for.”
The Bruins will scrimmage again on Friday.
Cassidy acknowledged that his eyes haven’t drifted toward the goalies too often through the first few days of practice and the scrimmage.
“The first three days of practice, you’re trying to get the intensity level you want in practice, holding them accountable to an execution level you expect,” he said. “I’ll be perfectly honest, I do not watch the goalies a lot unless I notice pucks going by them every shot, which I didn’t.”
While Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak started the scrimmage, Cassidy said he saw upside for Jeremy Swayman and Dan Vladar.
“I think we’ve got two really good, young goaltenders coming,” he said.
Vladar spent four seasons in Providence before making his NHL debut in the second round of the playoffs against Tampa Bay.
“We didn’t get to see him in an NHL game except for mop-up duty against Tampa, so we’ll certainly never judge him on that,” Cassidy said, recalling the 7-1 loss to the Lightning in Game 3. “That was a tough night for all of us. He got thrown into a tough spot.
“We’re looking at what he did in Providence and at some point — you don’t hope he gets a game, because that means one of our goaltenders got injured — but you hope we get him in a game because we’re in a good position to do that.”
The Bruins took Swayman out of the University of Maine in the fourth round of the 2017 draft and watched him progress over the next three years into the top college goalie in the country, winning the Mike Richter Award last season.
“He’s coming in here with a lot of confidence because of that,” Cassidy said. “He’ll just need some pro reps and we’ll see where it goes from there.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.