BOSTON – Clearly the Bruins viewed the trade for Rick Nash as a significant upgrade on the right wing among their top-6 forwards.
That’s why you give up a smorgasbord of players, prospects and pucks for a player with no guarantees he’ll be signed on for duty beyond the next couple of months.
Nash has been as advertised and then some as a big, skilled and fast-moving 6-foot-4 power forward that’s added size, strength and big time production with three points in three games, and an active 15 shots on net since suiting up and Black and Gold. But just as importantly, the power right winger has brought life and electricity back to David Krejci’s game as well alongside him, and never was that more evident than in the Czech center’s hat trick during Boston’s 8-4 barn-burner on Thursday night over the Pittsburgh Penguins at TD Garden.
Krejci has three goals and four points and a plus-2 in the three games since finding instant chemistry with Nash, and Jake DeBrusk on the other wing has three points and a plus-5 rating over that span as well. Compare that with the modest three goals and five points that Krejci had over the previous 14 games prior to the deadline, and it’s clear that once again a big-bodied skilled winger has brought out the best in Boston’s playmaking pivot.
To say it’s been instant chemistry between Krejci and Nash would be an understatement, and it really begins to build the excitement level of what they could do when everybody is healthy and making that final Bruins push for, and then into, the playoffs.
“[Nash] is a great player. I’m obviously happy to be on his line. We had a good game so hopefully we can build on that, and be even better next game,” said Krejci. “He’s good. He took the puck tonight, he’s got a big body and can skate really well so trying to get a feel of what he can do and try to find that spot, and get an idea of where he puts the puck. So it’s getting better. He’s a world class player and he’s shown that over the last couple of games.”
Just as he enjoyed his greatest success with power forward bookends like Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla beside him, Krejci is doing very much the same thing with a guy that’s got over 400 goals and 800 points in his career.
“David had some of his best years here playing with Looch [Milan Lucic] and [Nathan] Horton and [Jarome] Iginla, so he is used to having big, heavy guys who will get to the net,” said Bruce Cassidy. “[It’s] no disrespect to Ryan Spooner because we asked him to do something out of his comfort zone. I thought he did a good job. But, we said this before – he wasn’t going to grow six inches here.
“Jake is doing a good job with that. He has a lot of Nash’s attributes – not as big a man, obviously, but he does like to get to the net, and he has good foot speed. [Krejci] now got two wingers that have some similar traits that he seems to excel with. Nash is a good defensive player, so he will help whoever centerman he is with, kill some plays in the zone because of his reach and his hockey IQ. It’s been a good marriage so far.”
Nash and Krejci really only showed the chemistry on one of the three goals on the night for No. 46 with Nash bombing down the right wing, a backhanded saucer pass to the net that Krejci slammed through Casey DeSmith on the way to the Bruins first goal of the game. It was a big response score from the Black and Gold 1:45 into the first period after Pittsburgh had scored early, and it sent a message to the Penguins that the Bruins weren’t planning on rolling over and dying with Patrice Bergeron out of the lineup.
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Nash and Krejci both did the rest of their offensive damage on the power play on Thursday night in a big revival effort for the man advantage, and both players were crashing the front of the net. That wasn’t a reflection on the way that duo played 5-on-5 in the game, however, as they continued to show all kinds of possibilities.
Sometimes it can take weeks (or not ever) for players to build chemistry together on a line, and there are some players that will never gel together no matter how long they’ve played beside each other. Then there are players like Krejci and Nash that were seemingly built for each other, and innately show that ability to complement each other from the very first moments they’re skating as linemates. Time will tell how good they can be, and whether Nash is a longtime partner for Krejci or simply another in a long line of power forward-types that enjoyed success with him.
But it’s clear that the Bruins second line is much more dynamic and dangerous now than they were prior to the deadline, and that’s all about Chemistry 101 between Krejci and Nash that couldn’t be better as the Bruins continue rounding into playoff shape.