Reliable Kelly comes through in clutch

BOSTON -- On April 3, Boston Bruins second-year forward Tyler Seguin was awarded the Seventh Player Award by Bruins fans for being the team’s unsung hero. But following a 5-3 loss to the Penguins that night, Seguin told the media the real unsung hero on the Bruins this season was veteran forward Chris Kelly.

Kelly reached a career high in goals (20) and points (39) in his first full season with the Bruins after being traded to Boston just prior to the 2011 NHL trade deadline. In that short span he has been one of the most reliable players on and off the ice, and was named named an alternate captain this season. So it was only fitting that one of the Bruins who epitomizes the defense-first mentality and work ethic of Claude Julien's team would break a scoreless tie 1:18 into overtime of Game 1 and give the Bruins a 1-0 win and a 1-0 series lead over the Capitals in this Eastern Conference quarterfinals series.

“I think it’s fitting because to ask, I guess, our coaching staff, he was, without a doubt, our unsung hero this year, for what he’s accomplished, scoring 20 or some goals, something he’d never done before,” Julien said. “Look at 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. We talk about Bergy [Patrice Bergeron] being a good two-way player and I think Kelly’s the same way. I mean, he’s producing this year more than ever, and he’s so reliable defensively. So it was nice to see. We talked about that line being able to hopefully get some secondary scoring like our third line did last year, and so far, they’re off to a good start.”

Brian Rolston echoed Julien’s sentiments and praised Kelly for embodying all that he believes this Bruins team stands for.

“I think that this organization, if you look at the centers they have, they’re all unbelievable defensively,” Rolston said. “These guys could probably score 40 goals if they were to cheat offensively and were on other teams. That’s no joke! But they don’t and Kells is a guy who it’s a pleasure to play with him because I know where he’s going to be all the time and I know the plays he’s going to make. It’s nothing extraordinary but [he's] just a quality player.”

Following the game Kelly addressed the media along with Tim Thomas at the main podium. Kelly was wearing the new version of “the jacket” -- the award that was given to the player deemed the team MVP by his teammates after every win in the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs. This season the jacket has become a junkyard chain. But the man with the chain wasn’t about to shower himself with praise. Instead, the always humble Kelly praised his teammates and linemates for his newfound offensive flair.

“I think I’ve had a great opportunity to play with some great players since I’ve been here,” Kelly said. “Obviously Michael Ryder last year, and Rich Peverley are both great offensive players. They’ve shown that this year and in the past and obviously playing with Benny [Benoit Pouliot] and Brian [Rolston], they’re great offensive players too that have proven that in the past. So, I’ve been really fortunate to play with some really good players and I try to play the game the exact same way every night and I’ve said it before, some nights those bounces go in and some nights they don’t. But, I think I’ve learned over the years you try to be as consistent as you can in every game.”

Kelly also admitted that as of now, his OT winner in Game 1 ranks as the biggest as of his career.

“I think pretty high. I think probably the biggest,” Kelly said. “I know I scored in the finals last year, but it was the seventh goal in, I think a [8]-1 game. You know, it’s probably up there. Obviously it’s great to score in the playoffs and even better to score in overtime.”

Right now though, the Bruins are simply happy they’re coming for their unsung hero.

“He deserves that and the credit he’s getting,” Rolston said. “He’s one of our hardest workers night in and night out.”