His trade value roughly on par with today’s ruble when the Bruins began their six-game road trip, Jake DeBrusk returned home Saturday night hotter than cryptocurrency.
DeBrusk led all Black and Gold scorers with six goals on the trip, including the opening strike Saturday night vs. Columbus. Now with two weeks to go prior to the NHL trade deadline (March 21, 3 p.m. ET), that could mean gold for GM Don Sweeney if he deigns to grant the 25-year-old winger’s longstanding request to go somewhere else where he can be: 1. Appreciated and 2. A consistent scorer in a club’s top six-pack of forwards.
At this hour, don’t count on that being anywhere other than Causeway St.
DeBrusk may still want out — for reasons he has yet to make public (“I plead the fifth.”) — but Sweeney might be hard-pressed now to find someone who brings back equal or greater value than the newly-installed No. 1 right winger who just came home with a half-dozen goals (2 in Seattle, 3 in LA, 1 in Columbus) jingle-jangling in his pocket.
“Playing with pace, moving his feet,” coach Bruce Cassidy said a number of times on the 5-1-0 trip, noting DeBrusk’s rediscovered assets. “Effective on the forecheck when he’s got his legs going.”
If that’s the DeBrusk who could suit up for a playoff run, then he simply has made himself too valuable to unload in the league’s impending fire sale. The deadline market can deliver a lot of things, but rarely is it a kid with speed, a nose for the net and legit touch — most of which mysteriously disappeared from DeBrusk’s game over the last two-plus calendar years.
Key to keep in mind: There really isn’t any urgency for Sweeney to deal DeBrusk, who, no matter how he performs these next weeks and months, will be a restricted free agent this summer. Whether he’s boom or bust, the Bruins still will own his negotiation rights.
Yes, DeBrusk has made himself more valuable in the last 2-3 weeks, to himself, to his linemates, and to his current employer. If he could keep up the beat, all the better for Sweeney to take him to market in the days leading up to the July 13 start of free agency, the time of year clubs are reconfiguring payrolls and rosters.
If Sweeney is committed to moving DeBrusk, he now reasonably can shop him to fill the club’s No. 1 need: a solid fit for a left stick on the No. 1 D pairing with Charlie McAvoy — perhaps the likes of Arizona’s Jakob Chychrun.
Short of that, DeBrusk right now is money best left in the GM’s pocket.
Jeremy Swayman now ranks third in league
The Bruins remained off skates Sunday, which would point to Jeremy Swayman, the winner Saturday night in Columbus, making the start Monday night with the Kings in town.
While DeBrusk was busy renewing his goal-scoring credentials on the trip, Swayman fully assumed the No. 1 netminding job with a 4-0-0 performance that included a 1.71 goals-against mark and .936 save percentage.
Swayman has started eight of the last 11 games, going 7-0-1, and now has a dazzling .927 save percentage for the season. The latter ranks him third in the league, behind only the Rangers’ Igor Shesterkin (.940) and Carolina’s Frederik Andersen (.928).
All signs point to Cassidy employing Swayman as his starter for the majority of the starts over the final 26 regular-season games. If his numbers remain dominant, he’ll enter April as a bona fide candidate for Calder (Rookie of the Year) honors. “All I care about is getting wins and the rest will take care of itself,” Swayman said postgame on Saturday, asked if he paid attention to the R.O.Y chatter. “Playing for the crest is all I care about for the Boston Bruins. That’s all that matters to me.”
The last goalie to win the Calder: Steve Mason, Columbus, 2009, which came five years after Andrew Raycroft won it with the Bruins.
Team in good position and good health
The Bruins are in uncharacteristic good health, with no major injuries, for this point in the season, and they are all but guaranteed at least a wildcard berth for the postseason. They opened the week trailing the Leafs by only 2 points for the No. 3 seed in the Atlantic … Defenseman Urho Vaakanainen, out of the lineup the last three weeks with an undisclosed injury, started skating on his own last week and could be available later this week, be it against the Blackhawks (Thursday) or Coyotes (Saturday) … The Bruins outscored opponents, 26-13, on the 5-1-0 roadie. They also held a 3:1 advantage in lead time (157:38 vs. 53:10) … The power play remained a soft spot, the Bruins producing at a tepid 3-for-15 (20 percent) clip, while their six opponents cashed in five times on 17 chances (29 percent) … Brandon Carlo was the lone defenseman to score a goal on the trip. Otherwise, the goal scorers other than DeBrusk were: David Pastrnak and Craig Smith (4 each); Erik Haula and Patrice Bergeron (3 each); Brad Marchand (2); one each from Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno … Trent Frederic, who has scored only one goal since Jan. 4, potted three assists in the win at Vegas … Fabian Lysell, the club’s top pick in last summer’s draft, entered the new week as WHL Vancouver’s top scorer: 18-24—42 in 36 games. He needs to add to his 5-foot-10-inch, 175-pound high school frame, but he would be a logical roster add for the playoffs, even if only to get a firsthand look at big league life.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at email@example.com.