Bruins

John Tavares chase was a fun ride for most, but not for David Krejci

John Tavares chase was a fun ride for most, but not for David Krejci

It was a pretty great offseason for David Krejci, as they usually are for NHL players. There was plenty of golf, travel and family time, and the Bruins playmaking center is expecting a baby right around the time of the Winter Classic.

But it wasn’t all rainbows, sunshine and baby gender reveal parties for the longtime Bruins pivot. In fact, things got downright uncomfortable around July 1 when the Bruins began their comprehensive attempts to woo free agent John Tavares to Boston. Nobody is going to blame Don Sweeney for trying to sign the franchise center, obviously, because he would have given Boston the kind of 20-something top center they now desperately need with both Krejci and Patrice Bergeron on the wrong side of 30 years old.

But the sight of Cam Neely and Sweeney winging it out to L.A. to meet with Tavares’ representation certainly left Krejci feeling a little uneasy about his own situation with the Black and Gold, and what exactly was going to happen to him if Boston somehow did win the Tavares sweepstakes.

“I had no idea what was going on. My agent didn’t tell my [anything] because he said he didn’t know anything. I didn’t get any phone calls from anyone from the Bruins,” said Krejci to NBC Sports Boston. “So I was just getting those Instragram messages [telling me to request a trade] in my inbox. I know that I have a no-trade so they would have to call me [if they did end up signing Tavares].

“Yeah, that wasn’t kind of something I enjoyed. But it was over pretty quick. It was a quick couple of weeks. It is what it is.”

Would Krejci have been bumped down to third line center to make room for both Bergeron and Tavares in the top-6? Would the faint rumors of Krejci on the trade block have become much louder and more substantial if Tavares was then in the fold?

One of the two above situations would have probably been a reality for the 32-year-old Krejci just based on the salary cap and the pecking order of the three centers involved. But as it would have it, the Bruins probably weren’t all that close to landing Tavares after being one of the finalists, and instead the ex-Isles star went home to Toronto and the Maple Leafs.

Still, the B’s pursuit of Tavares took its toll on Krejci and his feelings of security within the Bruins. He has a no-trade clause that controls his destiny to a point, but that still didn’t stop him from wondering what his place was while simultaneously not hearing anything from the Bruins organization.

“I understand that it’s the hockey business that you have to do whatever you have to do to make the hockey team better,” said Krejci to NBCSportsBoston.com. “Obviously I don’t want to go anywhere. But Donnie [Sweeney] has got to do what he’s got to do. [Hockey is a business] is what I’ve learned over the years. I love being here and I’ve got three years left, so for me it was just about getting ready to be the best player I can be. I’m still young and I feel like I still have some of my best years in front of me. Maybe not 70 or 80 points production-wise, but maybe more of a complete player and helping out the young guys grow.”

These are challenging times for Krejci as he’s coming off a so-so year where he finished with 17 goals and 44 points while missing 18 games due to injury. On the plus side, he formed a nice chemistry with Jake DeBrusk and that duo should end up paired together again on the second line this season. But the Czech center never really got things going with Rick Nash after his trade from New York, and the B’s second line became a big problem in the second round series vs. Tampa Bay when Boston’s offense got extremely one-dimensional.

It wasn’t a bad season from Krejci, of course, but it also didn’t meet expectations for the highest-paid forward on the team. So when it came time for the Bruins to chase after Tavares, the worst part of the whole experience for Krejci was the fans that were coming after him on his Instragram account to vulgarly demand he waive his no-trade and go elsewhere.

The “getting targeted on social media” part was clearly still bugging him when he chatted about it with NBC Sports Boston a couple of days ago after captains' practice.

“I tried to stay away as much as I can from everything [during the Tavares sweepstakes], but you can’t. I was actually getting some not-very-nice messages on Instagram to ask for a trade, so you know they could get Tavares,” said Krejci to NBC Sports Boston. “Some people were asking me in a nice way, and some weren’t asking me in a very nice way.

“I have a lot of fans, which is great. I think it’s a common thing where people say ‘Awesome, awesome…great job’ and you appreciate it. But if there’s a bad comment it sticks in your head. So that wasn’t nice.”

Clearly, Krejci is a total pro after 769 games in a Bruins uniform over the last 10-plus seasons, and has done enough truly remarkable things with the Bruins to keep the confidence level high headed into this season. But nobody is going to blame him if Krejci is feeling a little more uneasy at this point knowing that the Bruins have already held discussions on what do with him if a better option comes across their path.

Maybe that will really motivate Krejci to have one of his best seasons and turn back the clock to a vintage 20-goal/70-point season that he’s been capable of in his best years. Or maybe it will cause him to second-guess how committed the Bruins are to an aging center playing out the rest of his three-year contract in Boston.  

Time will tell with Krejci, but it’s pretty clear that the chase after Tavares left a lasting, not-so-great impact on him this summer.

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Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

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Injury-plagued Bruins have a big challenge, but they also have a plan

The Bruins really are at a bit of a breaking point right now with the injuries.

It’s bad enough that they’re missing Kevan Miller, Brandon Carlo, Charlie McAvoy, John Moore and Urho Vaakanainen to injuries at this point, but now Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron both appear to be out for the foreseeable future. That’s about as dire as it gets for the Black and Gold missing their two best defensive players and leaders on the ice while seemingly introducing a new player from Providence just about every game.

Couple that with the fact that it appears Montreal and Buffalo are much improved in the Atlantic Division this season, and the Bruins have a challenge to at least tread water with the rest of the pack while currently sitting in playoff position. That won’t be easy missing so many key players and trying to survive with Torey Krug and Matt Grzelcyk basically serving as the top two defensemen among the six blueliners on the ice.

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Despite all of that, give credit to Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy and his coaching staff for formulating the best plan until some of the healthy reinforcements arrive for the Black and Gold. It’s been on display in each of the last two games as the Bruins have taken three out of four points on the road against Dallas and Arizona in low-scoring affairs. The Bruins have only scored two goals in the two games, but still managed to secure the three points because they found a little offense stuffed in between the couch cushions, and then played a conservative brand of hockey that limits chances both for them and for the opposition.

That was on full display against the Coyotes when the Bruins only managed three shots on net in the second period after scoring early in the game to take a quick 2-0 lead in the eventual 2-1 win over the Desert Dogs. It may not be the sexiest hockey in the world for a Bruins team that’s used to scoring early and often while playing at a fast pace, but it should also be effective if the young B’s reserves can keep their discipline and confidence riding high.

They’re also going to need some seriously strong goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Tuukka Rask, who combined to stop 68-of-70 shots (.971) over the weekend in taking the three out of four available points against the Stars and Coyotes. Halak continues to put together a strong season with the .935 save percentage and the 2.07 goals against average to date this year, and Rask has always been a strong goalie in the months of November and December once things get to the middle of the regular season.

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There’s clearly hope that the goaltenders are both going to be up for the challenge over the next month or so. They'll need to after the Bruins were outshot 70-46 over the last two games while playing their brand of a bend-but-don't-break defense with rookies, AHL journeymen and undersized puck-movers trying to get the job done. 

There’s also the fact that Kevan Miller may be returning this coming week, and there may be another healthy body or two behind him with the Brandon Carlo issue not expected to be a serious injury to begin with.

So put it all together and there’s no question the Bruins are in the middle of some serious adversity, and that the success of the last two games could become a fleeting thing while banking on a boatload of young, inexperienced players called up from Providence. So far, so good for the Black and Gold, but they’re a long way from getting out of the woods despite being in a good playoff spot with the Thanksgiving holiday bearing down on them this week.

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What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Coyotes: It's a gritty formula for B's

What We Learned in the Bruins 2-1 win over the Coyotes: It's a gritty formula for B's

Here’s What We Learned in the Bruins grinding 2-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes at the Gila River Casino Arena.

1. Jake DeBrusk is redirecting pucks in front of the net, crashing the painted area for rebounds and generally playing bigger and stronger around the net. Not so coincidentally he’s also begun scoring with regularity for the first time this season and potted the game-winner in the first period on Saturday night when he followed a Brad Marchand shot.

DeBrusk was at the net when Darcy Kuemper kicked out the rebound and was able slam it home for his fifth goal and seventh point in the last seven games. With DeBrusk now heating up, the Bruins are finally getting the secondary source of scoring that they’ve needed to this point in the season. Unfortunately they’re also now missing Patrice Bergeron due to injury and that means it’s not even really secondary scoring anymore. It’s primary scoring, particularly with DeBrusk starting the game on a tinkered line with Marchand being centered by Joakim Nordstrom. If DeBrusk wants to keep scoring he’ll need to keep playing the power game. That’s something that’s come much easier to DeBrusk lately.

2. The real unspoken thing with this Bruins team is how thoroughly and gut-wrenchingly boring they're going to have to play in order to survive this ridiculous stretch with injuries. It’s scrap for goals, pack it in defensively & hang on for dear life just as they did against the Coyotes on Saturday, and like they tried to do Friday night against the Dallas Stars before ultimately falling in overtime. It’s not going to be easy to play that conservative, kind of boring style either.

It will require discipline and a lack of mistakes from the young players being forced into the lineup, it’s going to require playing to step up and score goals while missing so many of their key guys and it’s going to take both of their goalies to bring their ‘A’ games just about every single night. They were able to provide this formula on both Friday night in Dallas and Saturday night in Arizona in back-to-back fashion, but it’s a real question if they’re going to be able to do it over the long haul while waiting for guys like Zdeno Chara and Patrice Bergeron to return to the lineup. They may or may not be able to keep up their current pace, but we now it's going to be done in a much more conservative, controlled way for the near future. 

3. The education of Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson continues as the rookie was able to jump on a play early in the game and provide some offense for the Bruins with his first NHL goal. It was another gritty play with JFK heading toward the front of the net on a Noel Acciari wraparound attempt, and then popping in the puck when it came right toward him in front. It was an okay overall game for JFK with a goal and two shot attempts in 10:38 of ice time along with a 3-for-8 performance in the face-off circle.

He played a few more minutes than he did Friday night in Dallas and was a little more of a noticeable factor with the goal included. Now he just needs to play a little more consistently and be some kind of a factor even when he’s not involved with the offense, and he’ll really be on to something. But so far he’s at least showing that he can hold his own at the NHL level and that’s a start.

PLUS

*Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson scored his first NHL goal, passed over 10 minutes of ice time for the game and generally looked a little better on Saturday than he did during an invisible game against the Dallas Stars. JFK simply needs to find a way to be a consistent positive factor and he’ll be okay.

*Jake DeBrusk scored the game-winning goal during Boston’s first period outburst and now has five goals and seven points in his last seven games while providing a steady stream of offense. DeBrusk is doing it by playing strong around the net and combining power with his already present skill.

*Jaroslav Halak was brilliant again for the Bruins in stopping 31-of-32 shots and keeping the Coyotes off the board even as they fired 13 shots on net in the third period in a desperate attempt to tie the game. It was good to see Halak back in his usual form after a bit of a rough game while giving up 6 goals in Colorado.

MINUS

*The news that Patrice Bergeron (upper body) and John Moore (lower body) are both returning to Boston to be evaluated by the medical staff is really, really bad news considering all the other players already missing from the lineup. No Bergeron and no Chara could mean big trouble if it’s for a 4-6 week span.

*Connor Clifton had five hits and was a plus-1 while topping 20 minutes of ice time in the win in only his second NHL game. Those were the definite positives. But Clifton also took a delay of game penalty for the second game in a row after flipping a puck over the glass. He’s going to need to work on that.

*No shots and 3-for-12 in the face-off circle for David Krejci in his 15 plus minutes of ice time in his first game without No. 37 in the lineup. Krejci really needs to start stepping it up until Bergeron can get healthy.

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