As Kelly now recalls about the 2001 trade from London to Sudbury, the deal landed him in a decidedly colder city to finish out his junior career. However, the affable Boston Bruins center isn't one to hold a grudge about that trade.
So, Kelly says, the overtime goal he scored in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals to beat Hunter's Washington Capitals on Thursday wasn't any sort of payback.
BRUINS VS. CAPITALS
JR: Caps need Game 2 to have a chanceBy Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer
Even with rookie goalie Braden Holtby inspiring the Capitals through his confidence and swagger, Washington still find itself stuck in a major hole heading into Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in Boston on Saturday. READ MORE ›
"I had a great time with Dale and Mark in London," Kelly said about the Hunter brothers, who have enjoyed more than a decade of success with the Knights. "They treated me extremely well. It was something that they were trying to do what was best for the team and trying to do what was best for me. It's nice to see the Knights organization have so much success and, of course, to see Dale in the NHL."
As this series unfolds – it continues Saturday with Game 2 at TD Garden – it might not be so nice for Hunter to see Kelly in the NHL and in the opposing lineup. Down the stretch of the regular season, Kelly's line with Brian Rolston and Benoit Pouliot on his wings had a hot hand and made opposing teams that focused on Boston's first two lines pay.
Kelly was the orchestrator with an NHL career-best 20 goals and 39 points. So now a Boston team that needed contributions from a third line formed by Kelly, Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder during its run to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship has another trio that can bury teams with secondary scoring.
The line needed little time to get going once it was formed March 15, which surprised Kelly.
"A little bit. I think obviously you want things to click right away," Kelly said after Boston's practice Friday. "I went through kind of the opposite last year when we came, [Peverley] and I, when we got traded here [and struggled]. You want instant chemistry and things to click right away, and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't. So I'm glad it's happened sooner than later."
Kelly has often been cast in a defensive role since he ascended to the NHL. He once scored 36 goals in a junior season at London, but even back then the seeds were planted for him to do more of the things that can't be quantified.
"He was an all-around player and a character guy that could play defense, and in junior he was an offensive guy," said Hunter. "Here he's still – what did he score 20 goals? He's a player that teams like to have because he can go both ways."
Kelly doesn't like to take credit for his production. He often deflects accolades for his career-best numbers to his linemates, and even explained Thursday night that he was the "most surprised" person in the building after he scored the game-winning goal.
Even if Kelly won't accept the compliments or let them get to his head, there's no lack of appreciation in the Bruins' dressing room for the efforts of one of their alternate captains.
"[Kelly], I think, has always been a defensive-minded guy first, and he still is," Pouliot said. "But at the same time, he creates chances offensively, and now his all-around game is great. You can't complain, he had a great year and now he's doing it in the playoffs. You don't have to worry about [Kelly] doing that all the time. You always know he's going to show up, and he did it again this year."
Do-everything-type players like Kelly are a coach's dream. And this season, Kelly's been everything Boston coach Claude Julien could hope for.
"Well, I think it's fitting because [to] our coaching staff, he was, without a doubt, our unsung hero this year, for what he's accomplished," Julien said about Kelly scoring the game-winner in Game 1, "You know, scoring 20 or some goals, something he'd never done before, [and] you know, how he's handled the players that have been with him this year. He hasn't always had the same wingers all the time, and still, that line's always been good. ... I mean, he's producing this year more than ever, and he's so reliable defensively."