Bruins

Haggerty: Time will determine success of Krejci deal

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Haggerty: Time will determine success of Krejci deal

BOSTON Was the three-year extension handed to David Krejci a good deal or a bad deal?

Its tough to say before it plays out, as the legions of people who decried the Tim Thomas contract extension discovered. But a three-year contract extension for the 25-year-old center that will take him through 2013-14 is certainly a complex deal with an entire army of pros and cons that would make Jimmy Fallon proud.

Krejci admitted to the world on Thursday that the negotiations on his next contract had weighed on his mind a little, and became an even heavier burden when he struggled out of the gate offensively.

I knew that my agent and Peter talked during the summer. I didnt know what was going on and it was obviously on my mind a bit. It was especially on his mind when things werent going my way at the beginning of the season. It got me thinking a lot.

But we got a deal done. Im happy to be here four more years and now I can just focus on hockey.

Krejci and the Bruins came to an agreement on a deal that will pay him 5.25 million annually, and make him the highest paid center on the Bs roster. Just behind that is Patrice Bergerons 5 million cap hit. Fittingly, the center put pen to paper in Toronto on Wednesday afternoon and then went on to have a three-point performance against the Leafs for his best game in nearly a month.

David is a special player and a special person. In todays hockey economy he might have been able to go somewhere else and get more money, but he didnt, said Peter Chiarelli. I think weve seen this with a bunch of players recently, so I think it speaks to his willingness and his wanting to be a part of a winning team and to help the team win.

I wont stop looking for ways to improve the team and I wont stop trying to sign our important players. Its part of the day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year perspective and Ill continue to use that approach.

But thats some of the knock on Krejci after racking up 19 power play points in his breakout first full season in the NHL, the playmaker hasnt been making enough plays on the man advantage. Hes also never approached the 22 goals and 73 points or the plus-37 mark to lead the NHL in the last two seasons. Hes being paid like a No. 1 center and will have the responsibilities that go along with that role, but hes never put up the numbers one expects of a franchise pivot.

Then again, Krejci has also turned into a quietly efficient two-way center that can handle other teams top lines. Hes also a big part of the center group thats leading the NHL in faceoff winning percentage, and has become a clutch performer when the stage gets big. He made a name for himself by shining during the Winter Olympics two years ago for his native Czech Republic, and led the Bruins with 12 goals scored during their run to the postseason.

In fact, Krejcis 44 points and 19 goals in 52 playoff games, along with a plus-18 rating in the postseason, might be one of the biggest selling points for the Bruins when it comes to a deal like this. It wasnt too long ago that the Bs could point to Krejcis injury and absence as the single-biggest reason they collapsed in the playoffs against the Flyers prior to the Cup.

For a franchise thats expected to be knee-deep in playoff runs for the foreseeable future, the Bruins need to retain as many proven playoff performers as they possibly can.

In looking at what David has done for the Bruins, hes been a very important contributor and has really developed his two-way game, said Chiarelli. Hes obviously a very good offensive player and we saw him shine during the playoffs last year. We saw what his loss meant to us the year before in the playoffs.

Hes done everything that weve asked and more, and hes a terrific offensive player. Were happy to have him on board for another three years.

The biggest bugaboos for Krejci and his three-year deal: consistency and salary cap issues. Krejcis most recent slump is the perfect example of the instances where the top line center will recede from the forefront of the action and seemingly become invisible on the puck. Hes not quite as strong or dominant as Pavel Datsyuk and his skating and shot are adequate for an offensive performer, but nothing stands out aside from his brilliantly creative mind.

When Krejci isnt playing with maximum effort and reasonable motivation, he tends to become a little more ordinary out on the ice than one would prefer for an offensive catalyst. That still happens far too often for a big money player, and its always a wise investment to give the big money and subsequently the big cap hit to players that exert the same kind of effort 82 games a season.

That doesnt even count the salary cap ramifications. The Bruins now have what Peter Chiarelli termed a surplus of top-six centers signed to long term contracts in Krejci, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin. Seguin is playing the wing for the time being, but he eventually projects to be a No. 1 center in the NHL for a decade plus and will be moving up from his rookie contract after next season.

I feel a team gets built from the back end and down the middle. To have a strong middle is obviously an asset in my mind, said Chiarelli. David is part of that and hes shown that he can play different types of games. Bergie has shown that he can play different types of games. Weve seen Chris Kelly now. Tyler can play center or wing. Weve got a lot of options there and weve got some good centers coming down the pipeline.

I think a logjam is probably not the proper word. I think its an excess of supply and Im happy to have it. The fact that these guys are compatible and can play together without having to play the 22 or 23 minutes that some top centers do play is a testament to all of them as a group.

If he continues to score at a point-per-game pace, that suggests he is going to make a boatload of money in his second contract following his three-year rookie deal. That could be a sticking point for the Bruins given the 10 million plus theyve already got invested in their top two centers.

But Chiarelli said thats a good problem for a team like the Bruins to find solutions for, and the three centers ability to co-exist and thrive together allowed him to pull the trigger on Krejcis deal. Theres also the absence of no trade clause protection in the first year of Krejcis contract, and very limited trade provisions over the remaining two contractual years.

Just another facet to a David Krejci deal that people are going to strongly disagree about until he either A) proves hes worth the dough like Tim Thomas did or B) flame out like Marco Sturm did after his extension.

The Bruins are banking on more of the former than the latter.

Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

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Even in their struggles, Bruins have reason(s) to be thankful

Thanksgiving in the United States has become an important holiday in NHL circles because it provides a regular-season marker that allows teams to gauge their playoff viability. Roughly 75 percent of teams in a playoff spot at Turkey Day end up qualifying for the postseason, and teams within a handful of points of a playoff spot retain a pretty decent chance of pushing their way in. 

But Thanksgiving is also a great time for teams like the Bruins to also give thanks, just like everybody else, while they’re passing the turkey, the stuffing and the mashed potatoes.

Given that it’s the time of being thankful ahead of the holiday season, here is this humble hockey writer’s annual list of things that each member of the Bruins has to be thankful for as they sit down to enjoy a tryptophan-induced nap:
 
David Pastrnak – The 21-year-old is still thankful for the big bucks he signed for this fall . . . $40 million, to be exact. That should keep him in $8 sushi meals at the mall food court for as long as he wants them.
 
Brad Marchand –Marchand is thankful he finally got bumped up to the top power-play unit over the last couple of seasons, after Claude Julien really dragged his feet putting him there. Eleven power-play goals and 29 power-play points in his last 94 games certainly tell the story.
 
Patrice Bergeron – Bergeron is happy and thankful that he’s regained his health after missing the start this season, and that he’s been able to adequately handle the 21:01 of ice time he’s averaging per game.
 
Torey Krug – Krug is thankful he can again eat a nice steak dinner after being forced to have his food come out of a blender for months after fracturing his jaw during the preseason. Of course, that goes for a nice turkey dinner on Thanksgiving as well.
 
Danton Heinen – The 22-year-old is thankful for second chances after he whiffed during an eight-game audition last season in his first year of pro hockey. He’s making up for it by cementing a role with the Bruins this season now that he’s stronger, faster and a little more confident with the puck.
 
Charlie McAvoy – The 19-year-old defenseman is thankful he decided to leave BU after his sophomore season, making the very correct deduction that he was way more than ready for the NHL. If he plays his cards right, he may be thankful at the end of the season for a Calder Trophy.
 
Anders Bjork – The rookie is thankful that the B’s will be playing the Chicago Blackhawks in the Winter Classic at his alma mater, Notre Dame, next season. He may get to live out a lifelong dream of playing a hockey game on that iconic football field.
 
Jake DeBrusk – The rookie left winger is thankful that he got to score his first NHL goal in front of his family and his teary-eyed dad, Louie, during a pretty cool opening-night win over the Nashville Predators.
 
Tim Schaller – The New Hampshire native is thankful to be playing for his hometown hockey team, of course, but he’s more than just a local boy made good. Tim Schaller has been a positive factor for the bottom-6 with his size, speed and intermittent offense.
 
Zdeno Chara – The captain is thankful that both he and his employer agree that the 40-year-old D-man should continue playing for the Bruins beyond this season. Now it’s just a matter of agreeing on a contract at some point.
 
David Krejci – The playmaking center is thankful his cranky back has loosened up enough for him to get back in the lineup. Now the Bruins and their fans would be thankful if the points would start to follow now that he’s healthy enough to play.
 
Riley Nash – The forward is thankful that the B's thought enough of him to protect him in the expansion draft last summer, a show of commitment to a versatile, smart player who does a lot of little things well.
 
Sean Kuraly – The young center is thankful that he hasn’t yet hurt himself taking the jumping, flying and leaping goal celebrations that he’s quickly becoming known for.
 
Kevan Miller – The defenseman is thankful he’s back playing his natural right side for the most part after being pushed into left-side duty for much of the first couple of months this season.
 
Brandon Carlo – The second-year defenseman is thankful to still be on the Bruins, and not used as possible trade collateral in a possible Matt Duchene deal that was discussed quite a bit last year and through the summer.
 
Jordan Szwarz – The 26-year-old forward is thankful for another NHL opportunity in Boston after he’d gone a couple of years without a sniff during his time in the Arizona Coyotes organization after some early games with them.
 
Frank Vatrano – The Bruins forward and East Longmeadow native should frankly be happy that he’s still in the NHL given the training camp and early season he had with the Bruins. He’s scored a couple of goals and played well lately, so he has to hope that he’s pushed through the bad times.
 
Noel Acciari – The Providence College alum is happy to be healthy again after missing a month with a broken finger, and he’s proven that by going right back to the heavy hitting, shot-blocking tough kid that he’s always been.
 
Ryan Spooner – The speedy playmaker is thankful to be over his torn groin. He needs a strong season in order to once, and for all, show exactly what he could be to the Bruins, or some other team, at the NHL level.
 
Adam McQuaid – The veteran defenseman is thankful that he wasn’t selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft last summer, and instead continues to be a strong, robust presence in the D-zone when healthy.
 
David Backes – The 33-year-old forward is thankful to be back skating again after a couple of painful  bouts with diverticulitis that left him in surgery with 10 inches of his colon being removed. I'm still amazed that he returned to practice as quickly as he did, but he is a hockey player after all.
 
Paul Postma – The  D-man is thankful to be getting a second chance with another organization after spending his entire career with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets.
 
Matt Beleskey – The winger is thankful that he’s getting a chance to bounce back from last year’s down season, but so far the zero points and minus-7 rating in 13 games leave lots of room for improvement.
 
Tuukka Rask – The No. 1 goaltender is thankful for all the rest he’s getting in the first half of the season, which should presumably make him healthy, fresh and strong down the stretch this season. That is, if he can actually get back in touch with a game that sees him with a turkey-like .897 save percentage right now.  
 
Anton Khudobin – The backup netminder is thankful he’s been given a chance to run with things this season as he’s already twice had a chance to start three games in a row after struggling to gain regular playing time last season.
 
Bruce Cassidy – The coach is thankful for another shot behind an NHL bench 13 years after the first one, and he’s making the most of it with a rag-tag group beset by injuries and youth right now.
 
Don Sweeney – The general manager is thankful the team is still within a handful of points of a playoff spot after everything that went wrong in the first couple of months.
 
Cam Neely – The tean president is thankful for the overwhelming talent within their youth movement and the strong, loyal fan base that backs this team no matter what. But it could be a bit of a rough ride ahead, as the B's rank fourth among the big four Boston sports teams, given how good, deep and close to championship-caliber the others are right now. 

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Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

Talking Points: Khudobin keeps rolling in shootout win

GOLD STAR: Who else but Anton Khudobin? The Bruins backup netminder improved to 6-0-2 on the season and upped his NHL-leading save percentage to .938 while making 40 saves in a shootout win over the New Jersey Devils. Khudobin was outstanding stoning players like Nico Hischier and Blake Coleman on breakaways, and stood tall in the third period while the Bruins were outshot 15-5 and ended up tying the game. Even better Khudobin was super-competitive in the shootout where he was challenging shooters, and even stared down Hischier after he poke-checked the puck away from him on his attempt. The Bruins don’t win Wednesday night’s game without Khudobin playing the way he did, and that should pretty much guarantee that he plays again on Friday afternoon against the Penguins.

BLACK EYE: One shot and one hit in 8:28 of ice time for Jimmy Hayes in his first game against his old Bruins team, so pretty much par for the course from the underachieving big guy. Hayes has scored a couple of goals for the Devils this season, but he’s been mostly the same as in the past with sporadic scoring, intermittent tough guy play in the danger areas and then long stretches where you don’t even notice the 6-foot-6 guy out on the ice. Of the two ex-Bruins forwards going up against their old team tonight, Drew Stafford was by far the better of the two with three shots on net and at least one pretty decent scoring chance among them after stealing a puck from Frank Vatrano.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins set things up for their shootout win with a strong opening first period when it came to finishing off plays. Yes, they were outshot by a 15-10 margin, but they also made two big plays with Jake DeBrusk scoring a goal and then David Pastrnak setting up Patrice Bergeron for his fifth goal of the season. Beyond that Anton Khudobin also stopped 14 pucks in the first period that included a number of scoring chances for the Devils, and it showed what the Bruins are capable of when they’re on the right side of some key plays early in the game. Sure, the Devils clawed their way back in, but the Bruins felt like they had the game in control because of the work they put in during the first period.

HONORABLE MENTION: Charlie McAvoy led all skaters with a game-high 27:04 of ice time, and played a strong game while totaling three shots on net and three blocked shots. But he saved the real good stuff for the 11th round of the shootout when he threw a nifty stick move at Cory Schneider, and then roofed a backhanded attempt in tight and close to the net. The McAvoy shootout move begged the question why it took so long to get to him, but also mercifully closed out a shootout session that felt like it could have gone on forever between the Bruins and Devils. The finishing move from the 19-year-old was pure, unadulterated skill with the puck.

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 – the first NHL career point for Matt Grzelcyk arrived in the first period when he picked up an assist on a lead pass off the boards that freed Jake DeBrusk up for a goal-scoring rush.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “It’s the end of a road trip, so give the guys credit. They dug down deep and found a way to get the two points.” – Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy,  

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