Why Jake DeBrusk's lack of goal scoring isn't a concern for Bruins…yet originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston
Boston Bruins forward Jake DeBrusk would have hit the 30-goal mark for the first time last season if he didn't lose more than a month of games to injury after breaking his fibula during the 2023 Winter Classic.
He still finished with 27 goals, though, which made expectations pretty high for the 27-year-old winger entering the 2023-24 season, which also is the final year of his contract.
DeBrusk could still reach 30 goals, but he'll need to get really hot... fast.
DeBrusk is struggling to find the back of the net. He has scored only one goal (along with four assists) in 13 games this season. The team is stilling winning games and leads the Eastern Conference standings with a 12-1-1 record entering Tuesday, but DeBrusk's offensive production has been underwhelming.
"I haven't really hated my game," DeBrusk told reporters Monday. "I think it's just a matter of I haven't been getting looks. It's one of those things you worry when you don't get looks and it seems like they've been coming and going. I haven't missed any Grade A's, I haven't really had many. That's obviouslly something I need to change and that I can control in part. I know when they do come they usually come in bunches. Once they do, I just gotta put it in the net."
"In terms of it affecting my other game, I think I do different things now in this part of my career when it comes to being defensive. But at the same time, I've been a goal scorer my whole life, and there's nobody that hates this more than me."
🎥 Jake DeBrusk on his offensive game: "I haven't really hated my game. I haven't been getting looks. You worry when you don't get looks and it seems like they've been coming and going. I haven't missed any Grade A's, I haven't really had many. That's something I need to change." pic.twitter.com/da4GYqazv5
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) November 13, 2023
It's important to note a couple numbers. Context is key, right?
DeBrusk has a 3.4 shooting percentage, well below his career average of 12.4 percent. He's definitely been a bit unlucky, and when the law of averages eventually kicks in, some more bounces will go his way. And it's not like DeBrusk isn't being aggressive. He ranks third on the team in shots (22), second in shot attempts (46) and second in individual scoring chances (27).
The Bruins also are controlling play with DeBrusk on the ice, evidenced by their plus-11 margin in shot attempts, plus-16 advantage in shots on net, plus-9 edge in scoring chances and 7-2 goal differential during his 164:49 of 5-on-5 ice time this season, per Natural Stat Trick.
DeBrusk is able to make an impact when he's not scoring goals, which is a sign of impressive growth in his game. He's a much more well-rounded player compared to his early years with the Bruins -- he now plays on the penalty kill, blocks shots, back checks consistently, etc. -- but his primary contribution to this team is scoring goals, and when he's not doing that, it prevents the group of forwards from firing on all cylinders offensively.
The Bruins really need DeBrusk to start scoring with more consistency because their scoring depth could potentially be an issue later in the season, especially if injuries continue to be a factor.
Boston ranked No. 2 in all goals scored and 5-on-5 goals scored last season. But over the offseason, this team lost a bunch of really good forwards -- including Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Tyler Bertuzzi, among others -- and those players combined to score 102 of the team's 301 total goals in 2022-23. That's a lot of goals to see walk out the door in one summer.
After not making any major additions at forward during the summer, the burden fell to guys like DeBrusk to take their production to higher levels. So far, that hasn't happened with DeBrusk.
The Bruins currently rank 18th in 5-on-5 goals and 17th in goals scored in all situations. That's a steep drop from last season. Fortunately for the B's, this decrease in scoring hasn't mattered too much because the team's goaltending has been the best in the league so far. But there's no question this roster isn't as deep as last season, and unless general manager Don Sweeney swings a deal for a top-six center or winger before the trade deadline in March, guys like DeBrusk will have to step up and produce more.
How can the Bruins get him back on track?
Giving him more power-play ice time would be a good start. The Bruins have a good, but not great power play that ranks 15th with a 21.3 percent success rate. DeBrusk is getting 1:26 of power-play time per game this season, way down from the 2:57 he got last year. If DeBrusk can build some power-play momentum it might spill over into his 5-on-5 shifts, too.
Another way to get DeBrusk going is to keep him on one line and allow that trio to build some chemistry together. Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery has shuffled his lines a bunch this season given all the new faces in the mix. Some consistency of linemates for DeBrusk might allow him to settle in and find his groove offensively.
There's no reason to panic over DeBrusk's lackluster goal scoring, at least not yet. He's battled inconsistency throughout his career and is still contributing to the team's success in other ways. That said, he is paid to score goals, and for the Bruins to make a deep playoff run in the spring, they need players like DeBrusk to carry the load.