David Krejci isn’t leading the NHL field in playoff scoring this postseason yet like he did in 2011 and 2013 while helping guide the Bruins to the Stanley Cup Final, but the 34-year-old center is again showing why he almost always lives up to the name “Playoff Krejci.”
After going scoreless in the meaningless round-robin games while getting his game into shape, Krejci was Boston’s best forward and offense-driver in the first-round series win over the Carolina Hurricanes with three goals and nine points in the five-game series.
Given the months of rest prior to these unusual playoffs and the two legit wingers on either side of him at this point in time, it’s clear Krejci is feeling as good as he has in a Stanley Cup Playoff series in years while making the most of Boston’s time in the Toronto bubble.
“I think the team after the round robin, I think we turned the page and we just played our game. We had that great game plan, we knew exactly what to do, how to beat these guys. We stuck with it,” said Krejci. “And all four lines, they chipped in. Every game was a different line. That’s what you need in the playoffs. Every game, somebody else steps up. That was huge.
“We had a great response after the first period. The power play was big. Just like [Patrice Bergeron] said, we could have had a couple more. We’ll take the win and happy that we don’t have to come back here tomorrow.”
Krejci wrapped that series performance up with a goal and two points in Wednesday’s 2-1 clinching Game 5 win over the Hurricanes after he was elevated to the top power play unit in a brilliant Bruce Cassidy adjustment that paid almost immediate dividends. It was certainly a move designed to give the B’s special teams units a goose, but it also very effectively rewarded Krejci as a dominant force in a shortened series against the Hurricanes.
“[Krejci] is playing really well, really motivated and making good plays. I think having discussions with him and [Brad Marchand] about Krech likes that elbow where Pasta is so you got to put him on the other one, it’s a different look for him. And then [Marchand] moves off his elbow into the net front where you going to take a little more of a pounding, so they had to be willing to do that,” said Cassidy. “We had a pretty good power play as it is the other way, but this is a way to get Krejci more involved and then with Pasta not having a lot of reps I think you saw the puck move around to the other side a little bit more because those guys are more into the game flow of things.
“That was the other reason. Pasta certainly did his job on it, got to the front of the net, couple of good shots, obviously picked up a couple helpers on it, made some good plays. So that was a part of the game we were hoping he’d get back quickly, his hands, and he’s going to need to get his legs under him and his battle level up. That was the reasoning behind the power play, and those guys were all amenable to being in one group and it worked out for us.”
Given how reliant the Bruins are on the power play being a big-time producer for them in these playoffs, loading up on the top unit is the exact kind of bold B’s move that would make sense to stick with for a while as well. Krejci’s intelligence and decision-making was a strength against an aggressive Carolina penalty kill and his willingness to shoot the puck can sometimes be needed with that top group.
As for the goals, well it was all about having another playmaker on that top PP unit rather than Charlie Coyle or Jake DeBrusk in the net front role. Krejci slammed home a loose puck in front to tie the game up in the second period after Patrice Bergeron threw a puck into a pile of players in front, and then he helped facilitate the Bergeron goal in the dying seconds of the second period to wrap up the multi-point day.
Prior to Game 6, Bruce Cassidy called Krejci’s second line the “most consistent line” for the Bruins throughout the first-round series and he wasn’t lying.
Krejci, Jake DeBrusk and Ondrej Kase were at the heart of the offensive explosion in the third period of Game 4 that allowed the Bruins to score four goals in less than seven minutes while effectively ripping the competitive heart of the Hurricanes right out of their chest.
For Krejci’s longtime teammates it was perhaps like going into a bit of a time machine to a decade ago when he paced the offense surrounded by Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, and for his newer teammates it was perhaps a revelation at just how good he can still be when he’s flanked with proven scoring talent. Either way, Krejci is providing the secondary scoring that a team like the Bruins will need on the prolonged postseason run that they plan to have this summer.
“We all love ‘Playoff Krejci.’ He’s unbelievable. So much experience and his hockey patience is incredible. The power play is just, I can’t even tell how good of a player he is. He always seems like he makes a great play,” said Pastrnak of Krejci, who is ninth on the active NHL playoff scoring list with 112 career postseason points with only names like Crosby, Malkin, Thornton, Kane, Ovechkin, Marleau, Getzlaf and Toews ahead of him. “Just when you think he’s going to lose it, he always finds a way to recover and make a great play. Great power play… We scored some big goals and obviously Krejci was a big key on the power play.”
The question now is whether Krejci and the Bruins can maintain their current level with a matchup against either the Lightning or the Islanders in the second round. The B’s will certainly need Krejci, DeBrusk and Kase to continue to kick in the secondary offense as they did against the Hurricanes, and they will probably need that loaded-up power play against Tampa Bay as well given how difficult 5-on-5 scoring can be for the Black and Gold against the Lightning.
The good news is that, as Pastrnak said, the Bruins love “Playoff Krejci” and they are certainly hoping he is here to stay for the next couple of months just as he’s been in their best playoff runs of the last decade.