Nick Goss

Jake DeBrusk torments Leafs again, gets Bruins power play going in Game 1

DeBrusk continues to shine against the Leafs in the postseason.

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BOSTON -- For many years it was Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci tormenting the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fans come playoff time. Now it's Jake DeBrusk filling that role for the Boston Bruins.

The Bruins right wing entered Saturday night's Game 1 at TD Garden with nine points (six goals, three assists) in 14 career playoff games against the Leafs. He added to that tally with a fantastic performance in the series opener.

DeBrusk scored twice -- both on the power play in the second period -- as the Bruins earned a dominant 5-1 victory to begin the first round. DeBrusk's eight playoff goals versus Toronto since 2018 are the most of any Bruins player over that span.

The 27-year-old right wing increased the Bruins' lead to 3-0 at 15:02 of the second period when he fired a shot that made its way past traffic and behind Leafs goalie Ilya Samsonov.

"Jake was really good," Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said postgame. "That third goal, that shot, that's a goal-scorer's goal."

DeBrusk put Boston ahead 4-0 just 124 seconds later with another power-play tally. He won prime positioning in front of the net and cashed in on a nice play by Brad Marchand.

DeBrusk was very inconsistent this season. He has gone through stretches where the offensive production is really good. He also went through many periods of very little scoring. For example, he finished the regular season with only one goal in his last 11 games.

But the playoffs are an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start over.

"I was excited to get this (playoff run) going," DeBrusk said postgame. "It kinda felt like we were in training camp with the amount of practice days. I didn't like my season. It was pretty disappointing for myself. But at this point in time of the year we have a chance to go for the ultimate goal, and that's all that really matters.

"It's one of those things where it went well tonight, it was exactly what I wanted to do in that sense. Playing against these guys before, we know it's going to be a long series. We gotta keep that going. ... It's just a matter of playing the right way."

DeBrusk's emergence in Game 1 was a huge positive for Boston's struggling power play.

This unit scored at just a 10.5 percent rate over the final two weeks of the regular season, which ranked 30th out of 32 teams during that span. The Bruins changed up some of the personnel on the power-play groups in the last week, such as putting Kevin Shattenkirk at the point on the first unit with Pat Maroon in front of the net. DeBrusk has mostly been on the second unit of late with Brad Marchand and Charlie McAvoy.

These adjustments worked wonders in Game 1 as the B's tallied nine shots, six scoring chances and two goals with the man advantage.

"I feel like it's fresh and the players are moving and I like the way we're converging," Montgomery said of his team's power play. "The pace of the power play looks fast, and when the power play looks fast the penalty kill has to make split-second decisions. Even the first couple power plays we didn't score on, I thought there was traffic and convergence at the net that was creating opportunities to score."

The power play has now scored five times in five games against the Leafs this season, including Saturday's victory. It's becoming a real weapon for the Bruins in this matchup, one that the Leafs' struggling penalty kill needs to figure out ASAP or this series could get away from them quickly.

This is an important playoff run for DeBrusk. He is still not signed beyond this season and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in the summer. Despite playing a career-high 80 games in the regular season, he wasn't able to reach the 20-goal mark for the third straight year, finishing with 19.

A strong performance in the postseason could improve DeBrusk's value tremendously entering the offseason. He's off to a pretty good start.

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