Quiet and controlled, Krejci paces surging Bruins
"He's not on billboards. He's not a superstar. He's not the poster boy for anybody," forward Shawn Thornton said Monday, "but I think he likes that. He's an unbelievable team guy that just wants to be there with his teammates. And I think that's more important than anything."
Those teammates would agree.
The 27-year-old Krejci, in his seventh season with the Bruins, has been instrumental in getting them to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three years. His nine goals and 21 points lead the NHL in the postseason. And he's done it in just 16 games after posting only 10 goals and 33 points in 47 games during the regular season.
He's way ahead of his pace in 2011, when the Bruins won their first championship since 1972. His 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games also led all postseason scorers. And that followed a regular season in which he had only 13 goals and 62 points in 75 games.
"In the big games, he definitely shines," Boston defenseman Andrew Ference said. "He's a pretty cool customer as far as not getting too rattled about things. I think that definitely helps him in the big games and in the big moments where he doesn't let anything anxious get into his hands or his mind when he's making the decisions."
He'll resume doing that on Wednesday night against the Blackhawks in the opener of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup finals in Chicago.
In the first round, Krejci scored the winning goal in overtime to cap a Game 4 hat trick, giving Boston a 4-3 win over Toronto and a 3-1 lead in the series. And he scored twice as many goals, four, as all the Penguins when the Bruins swept Pittsburgh in the Eastern Conference finals. Pittsburgh star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin didn't notch a single point in the four games.
"He's a good player," Boston coach Claude Julien said. "Why should he be different than Crosby or Malkin, who are good players?"
Krejci's significance was reflected in 2010 when a dislocated right wrist knocked him out of the last four games of the Eastern semifinals against Philadelphia. He had four goals and four assists in nine games that postseason before being sidelined for the season early in Game 3.
The Bruins won that game to take a 3-0 lead in the series, but then lost the next four. With Krejci in the lineup, Boston scored 12 goals in the first three games against the Flyers. Without him, they scored just eight in the last four.
But there was no collapse this year.
Krejci scored on the first shot of Game 3 against the Penguins and the Bruins went on to win 2-1 in the second overtime. Boston completed the sweep with a 1-0 win on a goal by Adam McQuaid in Game 4 two nights later.
"We knew, even before the first round, that we have something good on this team," Krejci said. "We have lots of guys that's been here a couple of years ago, and we had some tough games against Toronto but we came back.
"The biggest thing in the playoffs is to stay in the moment."
At 6 feet and 178 pounds, Krejci isn't an imposing figure on the ice. Instead of his brawn, he uses his speed and smarts to set up plays on offense and break them up on defense.
"He's pretty consistent," Thornton said. "I think he flies under the radar a little bit because of his personality, and he's not very flashy out there. But he does a lot of little things right. He's an extremely intelligent hockey player. He's a lot better defensively than people give him credit for, too. So it doesn't surprise me that he's having this success."
Blackhawks forward Michael Frolik, like Krejci, was born in Czechoslovakia.
"I played with Krejci in junior (hockey) one year on the same line, so I'm very familiar with him," Frolik said. "I know he's a very good skill player, and he proved it this year, too. So we have to be careful with him."
Krejci has benefited from the trade for his idol and teammate on the 2010 Czech Olympic team, Jaromir Jagr.
The Bruins obtained Jagr from the Dallas Stars on April 2 and he's shared some of the knowledge he gained since his rookie season in 1990-91 when the Penguins won the first of two consecutive Stanley Cup titles. Jagr is eighth on the all-time scoring list in the regular season (1,391 points), and is the NHL's current active all-time leading scorer.
"Jags has come in and been a good influence on everybody. His work ethic speaks volumes," Julien said. "But for David Krejci, (it's) probably a little bit more special because (Jagr) is a superstar in his country, a Hall of Famer, and probably the most famous Czech player ever.
"When David sees him coming in our dressing room, it's pretty exciting. I think, right now, Jags is pretty excited about David Krejci's play, as well."
So, too, is the rest of Boston.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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