BOSTON -- Wearing the camouflage jacket that was presented to the Boston Bruins by the Army Rangers, and a Watertown Police Department hat, David Krejci personified the tragedy that struck Boston a little more than two weeks ago.
Over the 15 days since the Boston Marathon bombings, the Bruins have tried to serve as a distraction for this recovering city. With two wins in their last nine regular-season games, they hardly fit the bill.
But in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday, Krejci found the form that made him the Bruins' No. 1 center the past several seasons, and he led Boston to victory.
Krejci scored a goal and assisted on two others in a 4-1 win at TD Garden. His vision and ability to slow down plays were on display in a performance that was 180 degrees from his play in his two previous first-round series with the Bruins.
"I'm just trying to go out there, do my best and help the team to win games," said Krejci, who wore the jacket and hat to his postgame press conference. "As a line, I think we did a good job today. We put the puck in the net. But in the playoffs, there's always somebody new to be a hero, so today I feel like we had a good game, but if we want to make a good run, we know that we're going to need all four lines."
In 2011, Krejci showed he could shake off a bad series and thrive. He finished as the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 23 points during Boston's run to the championship. If Krejci continues to orchestrate the offense the way he did Wednesday, there's no telling what level his totals might hit.
Defenseman Johnny Boychuk cashed in on one of Krejci's feeds for a lightning-quick goal that put Boston ahead, 4-1. Boychuk said the way Krejci was distributing the puck, the blueliner could've had a couple more goals.
"He's such a great player, and he did that a couple of times tonight. … I just feel fortunate to put one in the net," Boychuk said.
Since the championship season of 2010-11, Krejci has been a fixture between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, when Horton's been healthy. This season, several factors, including injury and ineffectiveness, forced Bruins coach Claude Julien to break up that trio. Krejci was the Bruins' second-leading scorer in the regular season with 33 points, but the line of Patrice Bergeron, Tyler Seguin and Brad Marchand (36 points) supplanted Krejci's line as Boston's No. 1.
While the Bruins were trying to find their game in the regular season's last few games, there were hints Krejci and his linemates were rediscovering their groove. Horton was out, but Krejci and Lucic began asserting themselves and creating chances.
Krejci's improved play carried into Game 1.
"Well, when David is skating -- and he's also, I would say, pretty intense, meaning he's not afraid to go for vicious hits and not afraid to go in the corner and battle for pucks -- he's one of those players that fears nothing. He never has," Julien said. "So in other words, when he really gets his mind set to compete hard and get involved, he's a really great player. He's been pretty good lately. Not just tonight but before that, so I felt his game turning the corner as well and getting better. And he proved that again tonight."
The Bruins' core that's been together several seasons knows a 1-0 lead in a best-of-7 series is no reason to throw a party. However, for one night Krejci and his teammates' play was reminiscent of 2011, and there was some joy for a fan base that's been bruised by the April 15 catastrophe and disheartened by the Bruins' recent play.
There's hope the team can continue on this path.
"Two years ago is a long time ago. We have a whole different team right now, so we took it as a new season," Krejci said. "We closed the chapter, opened a new one a couple of days ago, and everybody starts from 0-0. We won the first game, and I'm pretty happy about that, but we know it's going to be a long series. We have to regroup, we have to be ready for the next game on Saturday, and we're going to have to play the same way, or even better."
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