Why Bruins fans shouldn’t fret over Jake DeBrusk’s extended scoring slump

Bruins

“I’ve been a goal scorer my whole life, and there’s nobody that hates this more than me.”

Jake DeBrusk #74 of the Boston Bruins celebrates after scoring against Ilya Samsonov #35 of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the shootout at TD Garden on November 02, 2023 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Bruins defeat the Maple Leafs 3-2 in overtime.
Jake DeBrusk has only scored one goal through Boston’s first 13 games. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Jake DeBrusk is doing what he can to build the Bruins’ team game whenever he hops over the boards.

Through the first month of the 2023-24 NHL season, only David Pastrnak has logged more average even-strength ice time (15:30) than DeBrusk (13:55) among Bruins forwards. He’s averaging 2:10 of shorthanded reps per contest, playing a key role on a penalty-kill unit ranked second in the NHL (90.9 percent).

The 27-year-old forward has evolved from a streaky O-zone asset into a viable two-way contributor on a stingy Bruins roster.

But even if DeBrusk has not fallen out of Jim Montgomery’s favor, he’s well aware that his contributions to this Bruins squad will ring hollow if his greatest skillset — putting pucks into twine — isn’t getting results.

“I haven’t really hated my game, I think it’s just a matter of I haven’t really been getting looks,” DeBrusk noted on Monday. “It’s one of those things that you worry about when you don’t get looks.

“And it seems like they’ve been coming and going. To be honest with you, I don’t think I’ve really missed any Grade-As. I haven’t really had many. So that’s obviously something I needed to change and that I can control in part.”

Through 13 games, DeBrusk has only lit the lamp once and posted five total points for a Bruins team in desperate need of consistent 5v5 offense.

With the Bruins losing 80 goals and 210 total points this past summer due to free agency, trades, and retirement, DeBrusk’s scoring touch was going to be crucial on a forward corps packed with new free-agent pickups and unproven youngsters.

DeBrusk scored 27 goals in just 64 games with the Bruins last season. Had he not missed six weeks of the season due to a fractured fibula suffered during the 2023 Winter Classic, DeBrusk was on pace for over 35 goals.

This year, he’s on track for just six tallies and 29 total points. Far from ideal for a player also set to hit unrestricted free agency next summer.

“I know when I’m hot and things are going right, it just comes to me and I make plays when you do that,” DeBrusk said of his day-to-day approach. “But at the same time when it’s not … you’ve got to really focus on the little details. … Everyone wants to be a driver. Everyone wants the puck. It’s just a matter of getting it and doing something right.”

Even though DeBrusk has yet to be rewarded consistently on the scoresheet, some of his scoring woes can be chalked up to extended stretches of bad luck.

With one goal on 29 shots this season, DeBrusk is currently boasting an unsightly 3.4% shooting percentage — well below his career average of 12.6%. Even with his dip in power-play reps following the arrival of James van Riemsdyk, DeBrusk shooting slump is due to break out of this ongoing regression.

DeBrusk’s baseline production has fallen short of expectations out of the gate, but his underlying numbers also offer up some optimism. DeBrusk is at his best when he’s driving to the net and potting home loose pucks and rebounds, but he’s also been far from a liability on the defensive end.

Boston is still outscoring opponents, 7-2, during DeBrusk’s 165:49 of 5v5 ice time this season, with the Bruins holding a 3-0 edge on goals scored when DeBrusk has skated next to rookie Matthew Poitras.

The bread and butter of DeBrusk’s game also hasn’t dissipated amid his scoring woes.

DeBrusk’s nose for the net, 0-to-60 acceleration and knack for buzzing around Grade-A ice have paid dividends throughout his seven years in the NHL.

DeBrusk currently leads all Bruins players in expected goals per 60 minutes at 5v5 play (3.31), while his 31.8 scoring chances generated per 60 minutes ranks fourth among Bruins forwards after Morgan Geekie, van Riemsdyk, and Poitras.

DeBrusk is still generating more of shot attempts around the opposing team’s net. A 3.4% shooting percentage hasn’t done him any favors. (Data via HockeyViz)

DeBrusk’s scoring slump has hampered Boston’s ability to build leads and find consistent conduits of even-strength offense on a reworked forward grouping.

But given DeBrusk’s track record of heating up after extended lulls — coupled with his adherence to peppering the net with high-danger shots — it feels all but inevitable that DeBrusk should start landing multiple punches in the offensive zone.

“They come in bunches, but once they do, I just gotta put it in the net,” DeBrusk said of Grade-A looks. “In terms of it affecting my other game. I think I do different things now at this part of my career when it comes to being defensive. But at the same time — I mean, I’ve been a goal scorer my whole life, and there’s nobody that hates this more than me.”


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