Countdown to Bruins camp: As usual, health key to David Krejci

Countdown to Bruins camp: As usual, health key to David Krejci

From now until the beginning of training camp, Bruins Insider Joe Haggerty is profiling players who will be on, or have a chance to be on, the 2018-19 Bruins. Today: David Krejci.

Krejci, 32, certainly wasn’t as prolific or productive as he’s been in the past and his second line really dried up offensively in the second round of the playoffs after Rick Nash put together a two-goal game early in the Tampa Bay series. Still, Krejci shepherded a young second line through the regular season with a blossoming Jake DeBrusk on his left side and spent another year as Boston’s 1-2 center punch down the middle of the ice. Krejci isn’t getting any younger and he’s logged some hard miles in his 10-plus-year NHL career, but he’s signed to a long-term deal and not going anywhere.

What Happened Last Year: Krejci finished with 17 goals and 44 points in 64 games largely centering DeBrusk and Rick Nash and. by all accounts. had a decent season considering he was fighting through injuries and a revolving right-wing situation prior to Nash’s arrival. His minutes were significantly down as he averaged less than 17 per game for the first time since his second NHL season. At this point, Krejci needs wingers that are going to elevate his game rather than the other way around. Still, Krejci can win a key face-off, has one of the best saucer passes in the league and is dynamic on the power play given his passing and facilitating abilities. Krejci may never get back to the 70-point level from his best seasons, but he’s still a valuable piece to what the Bruins are doing on a nightly basis.

Questions To Be Answered This Season: How much longer he can hold onto the No. 2 center gig in Boston before a younger, more explosive player comes in and pushes him down to the third line?. Certainly, it’s no mystery that the Bruins chased after John Tavares in the offseason and that leaves a distinct impression that B’s management wouldn’t be shying away from an upgrade among their top-six centers if the opportunity presented itself. Obviously, players such as Tavares don’t grow on trees and Boston’s own young centers won’t be ready for that kind of duty for at least a couple of years. Still, the pursuit of Tavares was the first clue that the Bruins have a long-term plan about upgrading and getting younger at center sometime in the future. Other than that, it’s about Krejci staying healthy and productive and jelling with his wingers.

In Their Words: “You always feel like, if you lose a game that you could have done something better.

So, obviously, if I feel like I could have done something better, a lot of guys feel the same way…then we wouldn’t be standing here. We would still be playing. So, hopefully, I guess, you learn from this and, I don’t know. It’s tough, you know? It still hurts, like I said. After the first round, and the first game in Tampa when we won, you start, kind of, having little flashbacks from the years, especially 2011 and 2013, you know, when we went all the way. I felt like this was really – this is it. This could be another one of those years, but it just didn’t work out.” -Krejci, on the shocked feeling last May when the Bruins fell to the Lightning in five games.

Overall Outlook: Krejci again enters this season as the No. 2 center and it will be interesting to see who he ends up with as linemates. The Bruins could opt to drop David Pastrnak down to the second line to form the Czech connection or outfit Krejci with a couple of young linemates in DeBrusk and Danton Heinen/Anders Bjork/Ryan Donato. Either way, they’ll need to consistently generate more offense than they did last season and provide the kind of consistent support to keep defenses from loading up too much against Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. It’s going to be a challenge for Krejci as he enters NHL middle age, but it’s one that the Bruins are going to need No. 46 to meet if they’re going to improve off last season. 


Tuukka Rask shuts up his critics with a big, worthy Game 7 performance

Tuukka Rask shuts up his critics with a big, worthy Game 7 performance

BOSTON – Whether anybody is a fan or a critic of Tuukka Rask’s game, one always had to admit that he had a pretty spotty record in Game 7’s headed into Tuesday night’s showdown with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Rask had a middling 2-2 record, but the 3.72 goals against average and an .845 save percentage in Game 7’s was dreadful, and included an extremely shaky Game 7 last spring against the Maple Leafs that Boston essentially won in spite of their goaltender. So there wasn’t a wealth of confidence that Game 7 this time around was going to be a puck-stopping showdown with Freddie Andersen, given that the Maple Leafs goalie had an even worse track record than Rask in those winner-take-all matches.

But a funny happened to Rask in a playoff game that featured a lot of outliers from the rest of the playoff series. Rask played arguably his best game of the series while stopping 32 shots and holding the Maple Leafs to one goal in a decisive 5-1 win over Toronto that allowed the Black and Gold to advance to the second round.

“[Rask was] phenomenal, especially in the second period. We had a couple breakdowns there and he did a phenomenal job of helping us out and getting us out of that situation,” said Brandon Carlo. “But, I wouldn’t expect anything different from him. He comes to play every night, especially in the playoffs I’ve seen, you know, he’s excited to play and does a great job.”

Rask was at his optimal best in the second period when the B’s ebbed in energy, and the B’s goaltender stopped 11-of-12 shots during Toronto’s longest extended push of the game. The Bruins No. 1 goalie never faltered while standing tall against the Maple Leafs, and was the single biggest reason the Bruins advanced in the do-or-die contest.

That’s legitimately something that could never have been said about Rask in a Game 7 before, and his coach was certainly appreciative of it afterward.

“I don’t think you win any Game 7 [without your goalie]. Last year we had a 7-4 game where it seemed like it was just all offense, but generally speaking you need your goaltender to hold you in there. I thought Tuukka was outstanding. He had a real good series, so did [Frederik] Andersen. The first goal I’m sure [Andersen] would like to have back. That’s the one that sort of squeaks through. We had one of those against us [in Toronto],” said Cassidy. “I thought Tuukka was great tonight. He really handled himself well, great composure, got out and played the puck when he needed to, froze it when he needed to.

“We limited his workload this year, and you wonder how it’s going to affect the playoffs, and I think tonight hopefully he got some residual effect from that where he was fresh the last couple of games, playing every second night. It pays off and hopefully even more going forward. I think tonight he was our best player tonight. I thought we had a lot of guys play well, but he was our best player.”

The hope obviously is that Rask’s performance silences some of the critics -- this humble hockey writer included -- who have pinned the Finnish netminder as a guy who can’t perform in the biggest games. He’s certainly tried to turn that narrative on its head at times this season like with his strong, winning performance in the Winter Classic, but Tuesday night’s 32-save performance was big-time goaltender kind of stuff.

He vastly outplayed Andersen at the other end of the ice after the Toronto goalie had been slightly better than him for the balance of the series. But it’s tough to argue with the numbers he posted in the seven-game series now that it’s over. Rask finished with a strong .928 save percentage in the seven games and saved his best for last in Game 7 after looking a bit shaky in Boston's Game 6 win when he gave up two goals on 21 shots.

Certainly there were no real breathtaking breakaway saves to speak of for Rask, but speedy scorers like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner were buzzing early in the game. And Rask was sending out the vibe to the Leafs that there weren't going to be any easy ones, a big edge for the B's once they jumped to an early 2-0 lead. 

In doing all of that, he spectacularly shut up some of his naysayers for the time being, yours truly included.  

“Hopefully he’s converted a few [of his critics]. I think in sports you have that a lot. I’m a sports fan, other sports, and I have it with certain players with teams I root for. For me, in the time I’ve known him, he’s been a very competitive man, excellent goaltender. We saw it [Tuesday night], and hopefully he can continue to build on his playoff legacy,” said Cassidy. “It’s a big Game 7 win. I believe he was our best player. In the second period, we broke down. He was there for us.

“I think you have to as a fan acknowledge when a player plays well. I know in this town when you don’t, you hear about it. That’s fine too. [In Game 7] he played well, and hopefully the people get behind him and acknowledge that.”

For Rask, it’s less about that thought, and more about simply staying within the comfort zone he’s inhabited to this point in the postseason.

“I personally felt good from the start of the series. I felt pretty good all year, obviously the workload hasn’t been too much so I feel fresh,” said Rask. “It’s all about feeling confident, preparing yourself the right way and trusting your teammates. We battled hard all year and it showed again today.”

Last postseason, Rask’s teammates bailed him out in the third period of Game 7 and allowed the Bruins to advance. This season Rask bailed out his teammates by stepping up in a second period that could have changed the direction of Game 7, and in doing so showed that maybe -- just maybe -- he’s becoming the big moment, postseason goaltender the B’s have always desperately needed him to be. 

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Final seconds of Bruins-Leafs Game 7 featured a devastatingly bad beat

Final seconds of Bruins-Leafs Game 7 featured a devastatingly bad beat

In most cases, Patrice Bergeron can do no wrong.

But the Boston Bruins forward unknowingly stuck a knife in bettors' hearts Tuesday night.

You see, the over/under goal total for Game 7 of the Bruins' first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series with the Toronto Maple Leafs closed at 5.5.

If you bet the under, you were sitting pretty, even after Charlie Coyle added an empty-net goal with 2:34 remaining to make it 4-1 Bruins.

Then, in the meaningless final seconds with the game in h and, the B's cleared their own zone ... and disaster struck for under bettors.

Bergeron could have just skated the clock out. But no: He had to flip in an empty-net goal with 0.2 seconds left to make the final score 5-1 and hit the over.

Let's check Twitter to see if anyone was affected by this:

Friendly reminder, folks: If you're going to bet on sports, be prepared to have your heart ripped out every now and then.

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