Bruins

Bruins' David Krejci having one of his best seasons despite instability around him

Bruins' David Krejci having one of his best seasons despite instability around him

For a long time this season, it was appropriate to say David Krejci was having a sneaky good season.

Now it’s way past that. There's nothing sneaky about the season Krejci's having at age 32, one of his best ever. He scored his 19th goal of the season in Sunday’s loss in Pittsburgh and now has 60 points, establishing himself as the Bruins' primary secondary scorer behind Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak.

Krejci only stands four goals and 13 points away from matching his career highs in those catagories.

“He’s such a talented player and he has been for a long time,” said Brad Marchand of his longtime teammate. “The way he can slow down the game and control the play when he gets the puck -- you know, he’s been a dominant player in this league for a long time. That’s not just going to go away. He’s a great player for our group.”

And he’s doing it despite a season-long rotating group of right wingers. Take the last few games, for instance. Krejci was playing between a guy who has scored 14 goals over the last three seasons (Joakim Nordstrom) and a guy that basically went a whole year between playing in NHL games (Lee Stempniak),

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Sure, he’s been riding with Jake DeBrusk -- who's currently injured -- most of the time. But the instability on either side of Krejci is divergently opposite of the consistency and stability that he’s brought to the second line this season. He’s had well over 10 linemates, most of them young players, and that’s a far cry from his best seasons when he enjoyed consistent, big-time wingers like Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla and Loui Eriksson.

“Krejci has always been a solid guy,” said Bruce Cassidy. “He’s got good character, works hard and he’s a good hockey player. Just like anybody, he’d like to form some chemistry [on his line]. Jake has worked out very well for him when he’s healthy, so we’ve tried to keep him there as much as possible while moving him from side-to-side on that line.

“You see the results, they’ve been pretty good. It’s been a challenge to find the other guy [for that line]. I’m not going to lie about that. We’ve had different guys in there. Some have played well and got injured, and some not so well. But the search continues. But [Krejci] is good. Every conversation with him this year has been good. He’s said that when I’m on, you can put whoever you want there. It’s my responsibility to drive the line and he’s accepted that and acknowledged it. We appreciate that.

“Unfortunately he doesn’t have the veteran help that some of the other lines do because that’s the way it’s worked out. But he’s done a terrific job.”

Maybe it’s merely that Krejci is completely healthy for the first time in years, or perhaps it’s about his finally attaining the consistency in his own game when in the past he relied on his wingers to bring out the best in him. Perhaps it’s even Krejci getting a tiny bit rattled by the Bruins chasing after John Tavares last summer, and deciding that he needed to up his own game in order to protect his spot.

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Certainly Krejci was energized by the month he spent centering Marchand and Pastrnak when Bergeron was out with a chest injury, but his standout season goes well beyond that few weeks manning the B’s top line.

“It was definitely nice to play with them,” said Krejci. “They make plays out of nowhere sometimes, so that was definitely nice. I just tried to keep up with them. Obviously we had a good run, but we have lots of good players.”

Whatever the case, Krejci said he’s merely going about his business and trying to help the Bruins win games any way that he can.

“I’m not really paying attention to the points, to be honest. I don’t really base my season on the points that I get. I just look back at the season in the summer on what I did well, what I need work on and how we did in the playoffs,” said Krejci. “I don’t just say ‘I have points, so it’s all good.’ That’s not how I measure myself.

“I’m just trying to stay feeling good for as many games as I can, and I know if I do that then the points will come, and the wins will come. The team will be winning, and that’s what I’m focusing on to be ready every game.”

Given Krejci’s track record in the playoffs, the season he’s been having bodes well for the Bruins once they get to the postseason. Now the challenge is to find wingers that can keep up with him and finish off the plays he’s setting up when it matters most against the Eastern Conference’s elite this spring.

Injuries to DeBrusk, Pastrnak and Marcus Johansson are making that a challenge right now, but to his credit it hasn’t slowed down Krejci at all like it might have in years past.

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Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

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Nothing wrong with taking wait-and-see approach with Bruins

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about the Boston Bruins.

They’ve overcome bouts of adversity all season long with injuries and a crazy trip to China in the preseason amongst them, and they ripped off a 19-game point streak that registers as the second-longest in franchise history.

With David Pastrnak getting ready to return to the B’s lineup, they will once again have the NHL’s best forward line and all three members should once again pass 30 goals when it’s all said and done with Patrice Bergeron just three goals away from the magic number. They could finish with the second-most points in the NHL this season as the B’s sit tied with the Calgary Flames at 95 points with 10 games left to go for both organizations.

The Bruins even have plenty of comeback wins down the stretch and their own pregame pump-up speech from MMA brawler Conor McGregor along the way, so there’s plenty of Black and Gold mojo going as well. So there’s good reason for those backing the Bruins to get pumped up with bodies also returning to good health, and Matt Grzelcyk, Torey Krug and Marcus Johansson expected to also join Pastrnak back in the lineup sooner rather than later.

So it’s a pretty good time to be the Bruins comfortably sitting second in the standings in the Atlantic Division, and holding a four-point lead over the struggling Maple Leafs for home ice in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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“It’s nice to look at yourself and where you are in the standings and take a deep breath and not be that team like – you know… I’d much rather be us right now than those teams that are seven, eight, nine [in the playoff standings],” said Bruce Cassidy. “[The teams] that are one point in [the playoffs] one night and one point out the next night. That’s nerve-racking, so for us, like I said, we’re paid to win, and we’re doing a lot of that lately. So that’s comforting.”

So why aren’t more people getting truly excited about the Bruins' chances next month once the playoffs get going?

Well, it’s probably got something to do with what awaits them in the second round of the playoffs should they advance past Toronto.

The Bruins could finish second in the entire NHL in points when the regular season is over, and that wouldn’t prevent them from playing the league’s best team in the second round of the playoffs. That’s right, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looming in the second round of the postseason again this year for whichever team comes out successful in the expected Bruins/Maple Leafs series.

Thanks, NHL playoff format, which annually seems to screw whichever division boasts the strongest and best teams as the Atlantic Division does this season.

No matter how strongly the Bruins finish and how many teams they beat in the final 10 games leading up to the postseason, does anybody truly think it’s going to be any different from last season? Is there even a shot that the B's are going to last more than the five games they managed last season when they were outclassed by the Lightning, and overwhelmed by their overall depth, after the first game of the series?   

The short answer is no.

The Lightning are deeper, more offensively explosive than the Bruins, stronger on the back end with big bodies everywhere and more of their core players are on the young end of their prime years. On paper it really doesn’t look like the Bruins will come out on top.

Certainly there’s a chance, though. Tuukka Rask could get hot and carry the Bruins through a playoff series like he never has before, or the Lightning could end up suffering some injuries that take away from their overall attack.

But the bottom line is that the Bruins are going to need some help to even get out of the second round, and that’s probably going to make it difficult for a fan base to get too excited when they’re already drunk on Red Sox and Patriots championships within the last year.

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The Bruins will get their chance to stir up the enthusiasm with two more games against the Lightning before the end of the regular season, including one just a week from now in Tampa with both teams rested and ready to make a statement. Maybe the B’s will swing into an Amalie Arena where they’ve almost always played well and push around a Lightning group that barely broke a sweat ending their season last spring.  

But it’s going to take a hell of a regular-season beating to make everybody believe that the Bruins truly have any kind of a shot in a second-round showdown with Tampa Bay. It would be foolish to completely overlook the Leafs in the first round as well, but it’s just as tough to blame anybody that isn’t contracting Black and Gold fever right now.

It’s going to take quite a bit for the Bruins to even get to the Eastern Conference Final this season, and for most B’s fans, they will believe it when they see it.  

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David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

David Pastrnak on injury: "Could I have avoided it? I wish [I had]"

BRIGHTON, Mass. – David Pastrnak had a mile-wide smile on his face at the thought of getting back on the ice with his teammates and playing games after missing the last five weeks with a left thumb injury. The 22-year-old is excited to knock the rust off and get back to the midseason form that had him post 31 goals and 66 points in 56 games, and saw him on a pace for 50 goals and 100 points prior to falling on his left hand back in early February.

“It’s a lot of fun being back on the ice with the guys. It’s been a few weeks [out of the lineup] so you kind of recognize that these guys are your friends and family, so it’s obviously feeling really good to be back,” said Pastrnak, who joked that he might not have been hurt a few years ago had he fallen on his left hand when he was 160 pounds instead of the 190 pounds he’s weighing in at these days. “Obviously these things happen in life and you just try to take advantage of it as a person and a player.

“Last year I was fortunate enough to be healthy all year, so it was really tough the first few weeks [after the thumb injury]. It feels good now. I’m taking shots and one-timers with no pain, so I’m happy to be moving forward.”

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But the young Bruins star also voiced tones of accountability and perhaps even remorse as he recounted the late Sunday night fall that led to the off-ice injury and the 16 games and counting that he’s missed as a result of it. The hope is that Pastrnak might even be able to play on Tuesday night against the Islanders while wearing a protective splint on his left hand, and he will be manning the right wing with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand when that does happen.

“Obviously I let the guys down a bit. It’s a tough time. It’s not an injury that happened on the ice, so I took full responsibility for that. That’s what hurt me most. Could I have avoided it? I wish [that I had]. But obviously things happen. The fact that I could let somebody down, I definitely hate that. The first couple of weeks were tough.”

Now Pastrnak has roughly three weeks to get ready for the postseason and get back into top scoring form, and that’s the most important thing for both the player and the team now that he’s over the injury hump and ready to return. 

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