Formal practice had finished nearly a half hour earlier, but there were Bruins center David Krejci and winger Blake Wheeler finally making their way into the Ristuccia Arena dressing room Monday afternoon after some extra work.
A veteran beat writer expressed his surprise that the two young-but-established Bruins -- not a couple of rookies or rehabbing injured players -- were the last two off the ice.
"I love hockey," Krejci said.
"Gotta get better every day," Wheeler added.
There's no doubt the work ethic is there. Now it's time for the Bruins to get some results from two of their most gifted offensive players, particularly Krejci.
Adopting an all-for-one, one-for-all attitude similar to the one they displayed during their 2007-08 playoff push will help the Bruins keep their heads above water during their upcoming three-game road trip and however long star centers Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron are out with injuries. But the collective-effort approach works only if everyone plays at least to, if not beyond, his potential. So far this season, Krejci has not done that.
Now that he's heading into his second game as the Bruins' No. 1 center in the Savard-less, Bergeron-less lineup, it's time for Krejci to start scoring at the pace that made him the Bruins' second-leading scorer with 73 points last season. Through 42 games this season, he has put up just 8-16-24 totals, which might be forgivable numbers if they were just the result of some inept finishers playing on his wings. However, Krejci has looked like a shadow of his former self most of the season. His offseason hip surgery is now seven months in the past, and his bout with swine flu was more than two months ago. There is no more time for excuses.
Jack Edwards, the TV voice of the Bruins, likes to call Krejci a "master of possession." But it'd be great if Krejci would start doing something productive with the puck while possessing it. He often hangs on to it too long, looks unsure of himself and loses as many battles as he wins.
Krejci has showed some signs of life with one goal and four assists in his past five outings after going six games without a point. This could be the start of a breakout streak. Or, it could be just another tease like Krejci's two-goal game at Chicago in December or his four-points-in-two-games output earlier that month.
If Krejci doesn't become at least a point-per-game producer in the next couple of weeks, that "hometown discount" he took on his three-year contract extension during the summer ($11.25 million total) will continue to look less like a bargain and more like a rip-off. More importantly, though, the Bruins will be behind the proverbial 8-ball in the playoff race. The Bruins won't win enough games to stay among the top eight in the Eastern Conference while scoring at their current pace, so their most talented and healthy all-around forward must fulfill his potential.
Sure, Wheeler, Michael Ryder and even a few of the Bruins' grinders could chip in more. And the back end definitely hasn't been doing enough to contribute both on the breakout and in the attacking zone. Those contributions, however, will take the Bruins only so far if they're not supported by some vintage Krejci production.
Matt Kalman is the Bruins blogger for ESPNBoston.com and runs TheBruinsBlog.net.