Jake DeBrusk has three goals and four assists in 17 games, tied for seventh on the Bruins in playoff scoring, with one goal in each series. But coach Bruce Cassidy thinks DeBrusk could be more of an offensive factor in his first Stanley Cup Final.
“This could be a good series for him,” Cassidy said.
DeBrusk’s speed and net-driving ability could be a factor against St. Louis, which has a large, heavy defense.
“You’ve got to get inside, you’ve got to use some pace if they’re going to stand up,” Cassidy said. “They’ll challenge. Columbus sagged a little more, relied on their forwards to back-pressure. Carolina’s D definitely flex out and challenge you. These guys do the same. I’m not sure they’re as — I don’t want to be disrespectful — as fluid on their skates as Carolina, but they’re edgier.
“So, I suspect a guy like Jake, if he’s willing to work to get inside with his foot speed, he can separate against these guys. I think it’s an important series for him. I don’t want to judge him up until now; we’re in the Stanley Cup Final, obviously everyone’s pulling their weight. Would his numbers look better if he had six or seven goals? Absolutely, but we’ve gotten timely offense out of him . . . There’s an opportunity for him to be a difference-maker, the way it sets up.”
Honesty his policy
DeBrusk, a natural left wing, has played on David Krejci’s right side. DeBrusk also has moved from the net front on the first power play, to the second unit. He hasn’t moved around as much as Danton Heinen, who has played every wing spot in the lineup except for the first-line left wing role occupied by Brad Marchand.
Cassidy has moved around a lot of players, and said he tries to be up-front about it.
“As a young guy, you’ve got a lot of things going through your head anyway,” Cassidy said. “Now you’re guessing. What’s going on, why am I here? And then all these scenarios go through your head.
“I think it’s just a lot easier to say, ‘You’re not playing well, that’s why you’re on the ninth floor. You’ve got to pick up the pace, or you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to do that.’ Or, ‘I like you better on the right side; I think you can play either side, but we’ve got to make room for another guy, we’ve got to build a second line, Jake, so you’re going to go there and we’re going to put Anders Bjork’ — whatever the case.
“I don’t mind explaining to the player my thought process. I don’t think everything gets relayed to the player, for obvious reasons. Sometimes there’s bigger things going on. But in general, why we do it and what the expectation is, I think we’ve always done that around here.
“They may not agree with it, they may not like it, but generally they have an understanding of why we’re doing it.”
Behind the scenes
The latest episode of “Behind the B,” the NESN documentary series, showed several revealing moments from the Carolina series.
After Steven Kampfer scored the first goal of Game 1, confidence was soaring on the bench. “They can’t play with us,” David Pastrnak told Marchand in an episode released Thursday.
“Can-not play with us,” Marchand said, stressing the first two syllables.
Chris Wagner’s painful shot block late in Game 3 created a poignant moment in the locker room.
“It hurts to win . . . boy Wags, what a big play at the end, kid,” Cassidy said to Wagner, who stood watching with his right arm in a sling.
In the handshake line after Game 4, Patrice Bergeron told Hurricanes captain Justin Williams that he “did a hell of a job leading that team.”
“Thanks for showing us how it’s done,” Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour told Bergeron in the line. “You’re one of my favorite players ever.”
David Backes was visibly emotional, his eyes welling with tears. “Not done yet,” Bergeron told him while embracing him.
After Zdeno Chara — who was injured and did not play in Game 4 but dressed for the celebration — returned to the locker room, he held a phone connecting Wagner via video chat. Injured defenseman Kevan Miller was on another screen. Wagner, who is unlikely to play in the Stanley Cup Final because of his injury, was given the game puck after his effort in Game 3. It was his duty to pass it on. He paid respect to Noel Acciari and John Moore, who stepped into the lineup in the absences of Wagner and Bergeron, but went with Bergeron, who scored twice in the clincher.
“Gotta go to Mr. Perfect, 37,” Wagner said.
Scrimmage, not game
Cassidy stressed before Thursday night’s scrimmage that even though it was something of a game simulation — two 25-minute periods, on their home ice at TD Garden, in front of a healthy collection of fans — it was a practice, not a show.
“We’ve got to make sure our guys don’t get caught up in ad-libbing out there,” he said. “We want to start preparing for St. Louis, managing pucks. That’s going to be the big challenge for us, that we’re not getting away from how we’re generally trying to play by putting on a show. That’s the risk you take tonight.”
Cassidy wanted his players to be focused on their work, but he was excited to hear online ticket sales were brisk. The Garden was about 75 percent full for the glorified practice, which included limited physicality but plenty of pace.
“For the fans to show that kind of support, how can you not like it?” Cassidy said. “It’s awesome. I think our players will appreciate it. I certainly appreciate it. Hopefully everyone leaves the rink tonight, we get what we want to accomplish, which is our work, and they get to see some terrific NHL players getting ready to play.”
The Bruins’ power play is humming along at 34 percent, by far tops in the playoffs. Cassidy said he feels the Blues’ penalty kill (78 percent, 11th out of 16 playoff teams) is similar to some the Bruins have faced.
The neutral zone 1-3 setup St. Louis employs is “very aggressive” in stopping entries, Cassidy said, and is similar to Carolina and Columbus.
“The entry part of it, we should be familiar with,” he said. “Doesn’t mean we’re going to have success, because they’re doing a good job.”
When Boston gets into the offensive zone, Cassidy said, St. Louis likes to challenge with its forwards and sag into the slot with its defensemen. He felt that could let the Bruins find seams, rather than score goals in the net front, as they did against Carolina and Toronto’s defense when they left the net-front area.
The NHL and City of Boston will host a free outdoor concert and viewing party at City Hall Plaza on Monday for Game 1. The NHL said it would release the list of performers — to include “some of today’s biggest acts in music,” the league said in a statement, at a later date. The event is free, no ticket required, and will open at 4:30 p.m., with a concert to begin at 6. Food trucks and beverage options, including beer and wine, will be available. Fans are encouraged to limit their personal items and use public transportation.
Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports