Those who claim they don’t feel the uneasiness that comes with the enormity of the moment are the ones you can’t trust. They’re not in the moment. They’re in denial, never a good place from which to compete.
No need to worry about second-year Bruins left wing Jake DeBrusk.
“You’re really excited to be able to get out on the ice to play in a Game 7,” DeBrusk said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “Also, that nervousness comes with it. It crept in a little last night and is still there.”
Just as it was a year ago when DeBrusk scored two goals in the 7-4, Game 7 victory against the Maple Leafs, a game the Bruins trailed 4-3 heading into the final period.
“I think from last year I understand,” DeBrusk said.
He understands what to make of the butterflies, how to quiet them.
“It’s a different Game 7,” he said. “It’s a completely different scene, but I think the biggest thing I take from last year is feeling the same way I feel right now and what I did to combat that and I’m just going to try to do the same thing tonight.”
And what would that be?
“You just try to use it. I think how to combat it is to use all that emotion in the right way,” he said, acknowledging that it’s easy to say, tougher to do. “But I think that’s kind of the one thing that I remember (from) last year is enjoying the moment, no matter what happened. I think it’s going to be pretty intense when it leads up to warmups.”
He’ll go over his responsibilities during team meetings and in his head. For example, how do you slow down Leafs offensive-minded defenseman Morgan Rielly?
“Just come out to the points with good sticks and try to match his foot speed,” DeBrusk said. “He’s a great player. I think he’s one of the best defensemen in the league. There is a reason he put up 70-plus points.”
Many reasons, actually.
“I think lots of their offense comes with him as well,” DeBrusk said. “I think he quarterbacks a lot of their play, and it kind of finds its way to him. So as a winger going out we want to make sure that first off we get in the shot lane and try to limit his options from there and try to keep the puck away from him as much as possible and make him play in his own end.”
Again, not as easy to accomplish as to discuss, but DeBrusk at age 22 already has done plenty that can’t be called easy.
There was nothing easy about the goal that stood up as the winner in last year’s Game 7 against the Leafs. After Kevan Miller forced a turnover, he got the puck to David Krejci, who quickly gave it to DeBrusk. Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner raced alongside DeBrusk, who gained a step on him as he lowered his shoulder cutting across the right circle. Instead of trying to get his stick on the puck, Gardiner threw his body into DeBrusk. Too late. With no stick to stop him, DeBrusk quickly got the puck to his forehand and wristed a shot through Frederik Andersen’s five-hole, blowing the roof off of the Garden and giving the Bruins a 5-4 lead.
DeBrusk’s was the most memorable of the Bruins’ four third-period goals. Looking back on that day, he sent some credit the way of veterans unfazed by a 4-3 deficit after two periods.
“All those guys, they won a Stanley Cup for a reason,” DeBrusk said. “They have such high character. We always talk about it and it sounds kind of cliche at this point, but it’s really true. Those guys have a calming effect. They said a couple of words in intermission and everybody was on board. We all believed.”
DeBrusk’s brief but rich big-game history gives everyone reason to believe in him as well.