Saturday, April 5, 2014
Krejci consistently kicking it into top gear
By Joe McDonald
BOSTON -- It's just about that time of the NHL season when Boston Bruins forward David Krejci is referred to as one of the most underrated players in the league.
Once the puck drops on the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bruins teammates, coaches and opponents alike will describe Krejci in that manner. It's become as common as the Bruins' contention for the Stanley Cup.
Loui Eriksson racked up four assists and David Krejci had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win over the Flyers.
There's no denying the fact that Boston's top-line centerman is one of the most talented players in the NHL, but there is something about playoff hockey that acts as a pickup for Krejci. He seems to elevate his game every postseason.
To understand his confidence, the answers are in his responses to questions.
He's a cliché machine, but his obvious answers are a sign of confidence. Currently, Krejci has 17 goals and 49 assists for 66 points through 78 games for the Bruins this season. For the first time in his Bruins career, he's been consistent the entire season. And he's showing signs that he's ready for the upcoming Stanley Cup playoffs.
A season ago, when the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup finals, Krejci had 26 points in 22 playoff games before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks. When Boston won the Cup in 2011, he recorded 23 points in 25 games. When he's at the top of his game and producing, it's a positive sign for the Bruins.
"It's good for myself. It's good for the team," Krejci said. "Hopefully, the whole team will feel pretty good before the first playoff game and we can make the run again."
Added Krejci, "Obviously, you have to raise the bar a little bit higher than the regular season. I'm just trying to do my best, and, hopefully, we can make a run as a team."
Higher? So there's another level to your game?
"For all of us," Krejci said. "The Stanley Cup playoffs brings out your best, and the intensity from the crowd, everything that's happening around the league, is much higher, and you realize that. You go into the game focused, ready to go, but you're still doing the best you can."
A season ago, when Krejci seemed to be struggling with consistency, Bruins coach Claude Julien admitted that even the best players in the world sometimes get bored with the normal grind of the season. Until this season, Krejci was one of those players who could dominate a game when he wanted, or do just enough to make sure his team won each night.
It's not that he doesn't care. He's just so good he can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to do it on the ice.
"When David feels good about himself, and he's got his legs going, he becomes that much of a better player," Julien said. "We know he's skilled. We know he has great vision and he can make unbelievable plays, but when his feet are moving -- and I've said this many times in past years -- he's that much better, and tonight was one of those nights he felt it."
Krejci helped the Bruins to a 5-2 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon at TD Garden with one goal and one assist. He was solid in all three zones, especially with his defensive game, which often translates into a potent offensive game.
Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask has a great vantage point on Krejci. Rask and the Bruins know that when Krejci and linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla are playing well, as they have for the majority of the season, the Bruins are a tough team to beat.
"He's still an underrated player," Rask said of Krejci. "When he's on top of his game, he works both ways and he makes great little plays that a regular viewer might not notice out there. It's been great to see their whole line having a good season and having that chemistry, and that should help us going into the postseason."
Julien can't say Krejci looks bored. It appears he's only getting warmed up.
"He's been consistent as much as I've ever seen him be consistent in all the years I've had him here," Julien said. "This is probably the best he's played from Game 1 until the game tonight. He's been real consistent this year more than ever. Is he ready? We know he's always been good in the playoffs, and the way he's played this year I have no reason to doubt that he will be ready."