SAN JOSE, Calif. - Bruce Cassidy had one specific thing in mind when he jettisoned Jake DeBrusk to the press box last weekend against Toronto at TD Garden.
Boston's bench boss believed the rookie's skating game was lagging and needed a jolt. So Cassidy made the 21-year-old a healthy scratch against the Leafs and asked him to watch the game from a different perspective.
DeBrusk returned to the lineup in the opener of the Bruins' three-game West Coast swing and notched an assist against the Ducks, doing it all with a bit of extra pep in his step. Cassidy was pleased with the youngster's response to a difficult situation and entrusted him yet again with more ice time.
Cassidy's trust paid off even further on Saturday night as DeBrusk put forth, perhaps, the best game of his short career. The Alberta native turned on the jets and notched a goal and an assist to help pace the Bruins to a crucial 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center.
The win - which also included 36 saves from Anton Khudobin - clinched Boston's first back-to-back wins of the year and secured a 2-1 road trip through the Golden State, sending the Black & Gold back to the Hub feeling much better about the state of their season.
"He's got pride and character," said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy. "We talked about these young kids coming in here and how he grew last year as a player in Providence. That was part of it with Jake. He wanted his opportunity and didn't get it last year. He's gotten it this year. He took a step back, but now he's taken another one forward."
Video: BOS@SJS: DeBrusk's impressive breakaway marker
DeBrusk, whose first-period tally proved to be the difference, was not the only youngster to come through for Boston. During what turned into a banner night for the B's young talent, rookies accounted for all three of Boston's goals.
Peter Cehlarik got the Bruins on the board in the first period with his first career goal, while Danton Heinen added some insurance with a tally late in the third when he capitalized off a Bobby Orr-like rush and feed from Kevan Miller. Fellow rooks Charlie McAvoy and Sean Kuraly also added helpers on DeBrusk's marker.
"We talked about it in July and August that some of these kids were going to be given an opportunity and you'd never know which ones are gonna step up," said Cassidy. "It was [Anders] Bjork for a while, he's injured. Cehlarik comes in and gets his first goal - he's playing in key situations. Jake has really bounced back from a little banishment up top.
"Charlie, you see it on a nightly basis. Kuraly doesn't get talked about much, does a good job for us. He's out there against [Joe] Thornton sometimes in their end, he's out there against [Logan] Couture. These are world-class players. Good for them.
"We need it, especially being absent some of the guys we rely on… a lot of positives. You hope it pays off in the long run."
Video: Khudobin makes 36 saves in Bruins' 3-1 win vs. Sharks
DeBrusk displayed his patented speed on each of the B's first two goals. On Boston's first tally early in the opening period, he and Cehlarik played catch through the neutral zone before DeBrusk dashed to the net, dangled through the mighty Brent Burns, and flipped a shot on Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.
Dell made the initial stop as DeBrusk tumbled into him after being tripped by Joakim Ryan, but Cehlarik was there for the follow and punched home the rebound for the first goal of his career to tie the game, 1-1, just 1:27 after San Jose had opened the scoring.
"I personally saw it all last year in Providence, these guys that are playing with us now, including myself," said DeBrusk, who was a plus-2 and landed four shots on goal in nearly 16 minutes of ice time. "It's always nice to see. We want it so bad and we're trying to work as hard as we can to help this team in any way. That's the biggest way you can help. Good for Danton and awesome for Peter to get his first."
It was, however, nearly a case of déjà vu for Cehlarik when San Jose challenged the tally for goalie interference. During Boston's California trip last February, Cehlarik had his first career goal wiped off the board following a review in Los Angeles.
But there was no need to worry this time around, as it was determined that DeBrusk was tripped into the Sharks netminder.
"Last year, having that one called off… hopefully that gets me going now and I can stick around for more," said Cehlarik. "Every night someone is gonna step up. We're missing a lot of players so it's on us [young players] to step up."
Video: BOS@SJS: Cehlarik pots rebound for his first NHL goal
DeBrusk was at it again on the Bruins second goal. With a San Jose power play expiring, McAvoy flipped the puck off the glass with the intent of sending it 200 feet down the ice. But the puck ricocheted off a stanchion and popped out to the neutral zone. DeBrusk chased it down and picked up the puck deep in the San Jose end for a breakaway.
Some indecision from Dell as to whether or not to play the puck left DeBrusk unimpeded and the winger took advantage, firing a shot far side to put the Bruins ahead for good at 10:46 of the first.
"Those were the legs. He tracked down a puck and buried it, split the D with a nice individual move," said Cassidy. "He's feeling it a little bit again. That's the way young guys are. He lost it a bit…it's up to the staff to make him feel good about his game. But it's an individual as well. This is the National Hockey League. You've got to come ready to play. He seemed to figure out the mental part of it lately."
A trip to the press box can do that for a player. DeBrusk's play in the three games since his night on the ninth floor is proof of that.
"It's hard for it not to be a wake-up call in a sense," said DeBrusk. "It's never good being healthy scratched. I take that personally and I wanted to react the way I have reacted in the last couple games. The results have been there…I guess you could call it a wake-up call and it's been working."
Video: Bruins speak to media after 3-1 win over Sharks