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First Round

Krejci brings consistency to steady Bruins in playoffs

Forward seen as catalyst for Boston, which trails Maple Leafs 2-1 heading into Game 4

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

TORONTO -- David Krejci's name is never the one that comes first. That honor goes to Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara or Tuukka Rask. His voice is never the one that carries. That honor goes to Brad Marchand or David Backes or, back in the day, his old linemate, Milan Lucic. His game is never the one that dazzles. That honor goes to David Pastrnak.

But Krejci, second-line stalwart, might just be the key to the Boston Bruins.

After a couple seasons of declining performances - his point totals dropped from 63 in 2015-16 to 54 in 2016-17 to 44 in 2017-18 (albeit in 64 games), Krejci turned in a masterful season in 2018-19.

 

[RELATED: Complete Bruins vs. Maple Leafs coverage]

 

Krejci tied his NHL career high with 73 points (20 goals, 53 assists), a total he had reached once before, in 2008-09, the year he turned 23. He helped his linemate Jake DeBrusk become a 27-goal scorer in his second NHL season. 

"I think David is an underlying MVP to our season, to be honest with you, really a catalyst for our group this year," general manager Don Sweeney said at the start of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, which continues with Game 4 on Wednesday at Scotiabank Arena (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, NESN) with Boston trailing the best-of-7 series 2-1. 

"Might not have gotten the prime attention that several other players deserved and merited, but very consistent year for David, start to finish."

Video: BOS@TOR, Gm3: Krejci lifts rebound over Andersen

And though consistent might not be the flashiest of compliments, for Krejci, it is the most fitting. The one that explains what he needs to do, what the Bruins need out of him, and where he has most seen his impact on a team that desperately needs him, as it attempts to get past the Maple Leafs for the second straight season in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"It's a lot of what David expects of himself," Sweeney said. "He was healthy this year. It took a lot of ownership individually … working on his nutrition, working on his training, and evolving as a player as you get older. That's something that you have to do. 

"He deserves a lot of credit for where we are as an organization and he's generally played his best hockey in the playoffs, so that's exciting for our group as well."

Krejci has 88 points (33 goals, 55 assists) in 111 Stanley Cup Playoff games. The 32-year-old has one point so far against the Maple Leafs, a goal in the Bruins' 3-2 loss in Game 3.

In 2011 and 2013, the two seasons Boston reached the Stanley Cup Final in Krejci's tenure - winning the first and losing the second - he led the NHL in playoff scoring. He had 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) in 2013, seven more than Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane and Krejci's linemates, Nathan Horton and Lucic. He had 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists) in 2011, one more than the Vancouver Canucks forward Henrik Sedin.

"I don't think I was the best player, I was just fortunate enough to play on a really good team with good players," Krejci said. "It just happened that I had the most points, but I wouldn't say that I was the best player. But this time around, nothing is really changing. Playoffs, everyone starts from beginning. 

"That's why it's really exciting. No matter how good your regular season or how bad your regular season was, you made the playoffs and now everyone starts from zero. Everyone gets a second chance again."

Not that Krejci needs one.

Video: BOS Recap: Bruins drop Game 3 to Maple Leafs

Part of his resurgence this season came from a growing chemistry with DeBrusk, who scored 27 goals despite missing 14 games because of injuries. Part of it came from centering Marchand and Pastrnak while Bergeron missed 17 games. 

But part of it also came from a renewed commitment to maintain his weight, something that had fallen off recently. He felt it might have contributed to some of the injuries he sustained in past seasons, and to just not playing as well as he could, especially as long seasons wound on. 

He wanted to continue to keep up, in the faster-paced NHL, and with teammates, some of whom are a decade younger. 

"We all know the game is faster, right?" Krejci said. "And guys are smaller than they used to be. They're faster, quicker, so that's the part that I wanted to get better at. … Honestly, I feel good [right now]. I feel like I can skate fast more than other people think. 

"I know there's lots of faster players in the League or on this team, but at the same time I hold my ground and that's what's more important. If you're one player your whole career it's going to be hard to all of a sudden leave that and go back and try to be the fastest player. It's not gonna happen. So, I obviously work on my strengths, but at the same time tried to get faster."

DeBrusk thinks it has paid off.

"He's got a little pep in his step," he said. "I know people think I'm fast but he's catching up pretty good this year so far. The pace isn't going down anytime soon and I think he's a special player. The way that he plays, he likes to slow the game down, but at the same time he's been more consistent in that area."

But it hasn't been easy. The right-wing spot with DeBrusk and Krejci has been a revolving door this season, with the Bruins eventually settling on Karson Kuhlman - veteran of 11 regular-season NHL games - to start the postseason. Add in his time with Marchand and Pastrnak and, as Bergeron quipped, "I think he's played with mostly, except me, every forward."

And thrived. 

"Everyone's asking what's the biggest thing," DeBrusk said. "I think the biggest thing is just his confidence. I think that he's always had that swagger and that belief and no matter who he plays with, if he's playing his game, it doesn't matter who is with him, he'll produce. I believe that's true."

Whatever the impact, whether it was health or nutrition or luck or confidence, Krejci has had an undeniably strong season for the Bruins. He is an undeniably important player for the Bruins, one who former coach Claude Julien used to say was a barometer for how the team as a whole would perform. 

Because as Krejci goes, so go the Bruins. And right now, Boston needs that to help swing the series against Toronto back in its favor.

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