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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Bruins getting frustrated with shootout futility: 'Usually shootouts are 50/50, right now it feels like it's 20/80'

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Bruins getting frustrated with shootout futility: 'Usually shootouts are 50/50, right now it feels like it's 20/80'

BOSTON – Boston, we have a problem.

One of the big bugaboos for the Black and Gold this entire season has been the shootout, and their complete futility at what’s essentially a skills challenge to determine a winner and loser in NHL regular season game. It cropped up again in Saturday night’s 3-2 loss to the Washington Capitals at TD Garden where the Bruins let a one-goal lead slip away in the final minute of the third period and watched as another team waited them out in overtime and the shootout for the two points.

For the second straight time, Charlie Coyle finally scored a goal for the Bruins during the shootout making him the only effective player in that arena this season. And Jaroslav Halak kept them in it with some acrobatic saves in the extra session.

But in the end, the B’s best available players didn’t come through in the shootout session and the Bruins dropped to 0-4 this season when it comes to the shootout.

“I think so,” admitted Pastrnak, when asked if the shootout problems have become a bit of a mental issue at this point. “We know it hasn’t been our strength and we haven’t been able to pull a win out of the shootouts. It sucks obviously. Usually shootouts are 50/50, but for us right now it feels like it’s about 20/80.”

Or 0/100 actually at this point.

Part of the issue for the Bruins is their inability to beat teams in overtime and the other part is a complete inability to even be competitive in the shootout.

“In our group, now, at some point, the conversation becomes ‘do you sell out in overtime because we struggle in shootouts, right?’ But, at the end of the day, I thought we’ve made strides in overtime,” said Bruce Cassidy. “We lost a lot of [overtime games] early, at least we’re getting our opportunities to win in overtime, so we’d like to be able to close one of those out. But that’s a bit of the, maybe, what’s happened in the shootout, right?

“When you get in all alone [at the net on breakaway chances], we’re more of a volume team, even though we have high-end skill, it would seem in the short sample size. It’s now growing into a larger sample size, so it’s something we’re looking at. But we’re not going to overanalyze. Every day, it’s been so much time in practice [so] we [can’t] forget about the rest of the game that I feel is more important for us down the road, but we do need to address it. We have, but maybe we need a little bit more time on that.”

Part of the problem is that Boston’s goaltending becomes less than elite in the shootout, and it’s a noted area of the NHL game that Rask has never particularly liked, or felt comfortable with, during his NHL career. Halak gave the Bruins a fighting chance with diving saves in Saturday night’s loss, so that wasn’t the issue at all.

Instead it’s a Bruins team that’s 2-for-16 overall in the four losses in the shootout this season, and Boston’s big offensive guns in Marchand (0-for-4) and Pastrnak (0-for-3) are a combined 0-for-7 this season. Pastrnak is now 3-for-20 over his career with a very middling 15 percent success rate in the shootout, but Marchand is a bit better with nine goals in 41 career attempts for a 21.9 percent success rate.

Strangely enough, Patrice Bergeron is one of the most accomplished shootout guys on the Bruins roster with 28 goals in 89 attempts for a 28.1 percent success rate, but he was never tapped in any of Boston’s first three shootouts before being unavailable due to injury on Saturday.

The Bruins tried something different by giving fourth line winger Chris Wagner shootout attempts in each of the last couple of games after showing some decent moves within his breakaway chances.

But Wagner is 0-for-2 as well and at this point doesn’t really merit any more looks ahead of more offensively accomplished players on the Bruins roster.

So what can the Bruins do at this point given the shootout futility where their best players aren’t getting it done?

Part of it involves sticking with guys like Pastrnak and Marchand that have the goods to eventually succeed in the shootout, and part of it might be practicing it a little more often than the Bruins do in their hectic practice schedule during the regular season.

The other part?

It’s probably time to use some younger guys like Anders Bjork or Danton Heinen that don’t have a book on them already around the NHL when it comes to shootout tendencies, and perhaps grooming one of them to be a shootout specialist with a varying degree of moves. They may never be the shootout weapon that TJ Oshie is with his career success rate of over 50 percent in the shootout, but they might actually pick up the extra point once in a while.

That is something the Bruins aren’t doing right now and it’s already cost them four very valuable points this season.

Haggerty's Talking Points: Cut Halak some slack in Bruins loss>>> 

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals

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Talking Points from the Bruins' 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals

Talking points from Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Capitals at TD Garden . . . 

GOLD STAR: The Bruins wouldn’t have even received a point in Saturday night’s game if it weren’t for the efforts of Jaroslav Halak. The B’s netminder stopped 42 shots and was brilliant from beginning to end against a Capitals team that outshot Boston nearly 2-to-1 through the course of the entire game. He stopped 17-of-18 in the first period when the Bruins didn’t have their legs under them, and would have stolen the game for Boston if Zdeno Chara could have cleared the zone ahead of T.J. Oshie’s game-tying in the final minute of the third period. He was just as good in the shootout, with diving stops that kept the Bruins in the extra session, and certainly deserved a better fate at the end of the day.

🏒 HIGHLIGHTS FROM BRUINS' 3-2 LOSS TO CAPITALS

BLACK EYE: It’s time for Bruce Cassidy to stop over-thinking the shootout. He tried to use Chris Wagner based on a pretty good breakaway move he’s showed at times, and the thinking there was that perhaps an outside-the-box choice work create a shootout spark for the Bruins. Well, it has not, and instead Charlie Coyle is the only player that’s had success in the shootout this season for the Bruins, who are now 0-for-4 in shootout games. They need to go with a much more straight-ahead shootout philosophy, where they just get their best offensive guys out there quickly. That means having Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak as two of your top three guys to start, and perhaps featuring Coyle more now that he’s enjoyed some success. One thing is certain: They need to do something differently, because whatever they’re doing right now isn’t working.

TURNING POINT: The Bruins were hanging on by a thread while protecting the one-goal lead in the third period, and were outshot by an 11-6 margin by Washington while they put a ton of pressure on the Boston defense. Jaroslav Halak was up to the challenge for most of the period and the Bruins had a couple of chances to extend the lead, including a David Krejci redirect that went through Braden Holtby’s pads and trickled past the net, but the undermanned Bruins simply ran out of gas when it came to holding their slim lead. With the Bruins missing their best defender in Patrice Bergeron due to injury, T.J. Oshie scored the game-tying goal with a little less than a minute left to play with Sean Kuraly out on the ice with Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. That’s not the ideal shutdown forward crew for the Bruins and it came back to bite them in the end.  

HONORABLE MENTION: David Pastrnak was one of the few Bruins playing with some energy throughout the game, and he scored what looked like was going to be the winning goal a few minutes into the second period. Pastrnak had a monster shift where he kicked things off for David Krejci and Charlie McAvoy to connect for a scoring chance, but McAvoy missed the open net with a one-timer shot from the slot. Pastrnak alertly picked up the puck and fired a bad angle shot for his 17th goal of the season. He was a key piece of offense with the Bruins missing so much of their firepower between Bergeron, Torey Krug and Jake DeBrusk. Pastrnak finished with the goal, 10 shot attempts and a couple of takeaways in 22:58 of ice time for the Black and Gold.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0-for-4 – The Bruins’ record in the shootout this season. They continue to lose vital points in the glorified skills challenge, with only Coyle seemingly enjoying any success.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “He was our best player by far. [It’s] disappointing that we couldn’t finish it because I thought our third period, we really bought into what we needed to compared to the Florida game, for example. We didn’t give up much at all [at the end of the game].” –Bruce Cassidy, on Halak and the improved third period for the Bruins, compared to their collapse against the Panthers a few days ago.

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