BRIGHTON, Mass – Looking at the numbers, David Krejci has been very good in the first round series against the Maple Leafs with two goals and four points in four postseason games.
But three of those four points came in the two lopsided wins for the Bruins on home ice in Game 1 and Game 2, and it was a bit of a different story up in Toronto. Krejci was a minus player in the Game 3 loss to the Maple Leafs and then saw his ice time drop to a series-low 13:07 in Game 4 as the B’s squeaked out the 3-1 victory over the Leafs with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup.
Krejci managed just a couple of shots on net in the two road games in Toronto, had a series of turnovers including one that led to a breakaway in the first period of Game 4 and experienced trouble generating second line offense most of the time in the two games. That all changed when he lifted a saucer pass to Jake DeBrusk in the third period of Game 4 that provided the insurance score in Boston’s pivotal victory, but it made for a tough series of games to evaluate No. 46.
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“I think he’s a guy that’s been there before, so he can rise up and elevate his game. When he doesn’t sometimes it can be frustrating because you want him to be at that level all the time, which is a big ask. But at the end of the day he’s got speed on his wings now, and we’re just asking him to be mindful of using them,” said Bruce Cassidy. “If they’re going to tighten up and have tight gaps where Toronto wants to be up, then you should play behind them at times and he’s got the wingers to do it.
“He’s a guy that’s been in this league and had success in the playoffs, so you don’t want to tell him how to play the game. But [it’s about] understanding what the other team is doing. You try to educate him on that, so he can make good decisions where he’s using his wingers to their best ability. But at the end of the day he made a big play to put the game away, so kudos to him. How did it start? It started with him blocking a shot.”
The hope obviously is that the Krejci-to-DeBrusk connection at the end of Game 4 might spark that second line a little bit, and allow the trio of Krejci, DeBrusk and Rick Nash to generate more offensive support up front. The Bruins top line has been so good against the Maple Leafs defense that they might need any secondary support in this current first round series, but they’re going to need more from Krejci and Co. moving forward against teams with deeper, stronger defensive units.
“It turned out to be an insurance goal, and a really big one for our team,” said Krejci. “It helps, but it’s a new team where we know they’ve gotten better. We just need to leave everything on the ice. We’ll just go shift-by-shift and focus on that every single time.
“We’ve been getting chances, but the main thing is managing the puck. They’re a quick transition team and if you make mistakes they have lots of speed and lots of skill. So they’ll make it count. You need to make sure you play smart and create offense from playing down low, fore-checks and being really hard on their ‘D’. That’s what we’re trying to do, especially early on tonight.”
Given that Krejci led the playoff field in scoring in each of the two postseasons where the Bruins got to the Cup Final, both the Czech center and his hockey team know how important he is to achieving playoff success. He may not lead all scorers in points this time around, but an effective, dangerous second line for the Bruins is important to the kind of sustained success the Black and Gold are looking for this spring.