You watch him play with veteran savvy and the vision of a player wise beyond his years and you forget — Boston Bruins center David Krejci is only 22 years old.
Krejci is still the Bruins’ second-leading points man with 64 and fourth-leading goal-scorer with 21. But other than a tough-angle goal through Cristobal Huet’s pads March 7, Krejci hasn’t scored a goal — and only added four assists — in his last 15 games since a one-goal, one-assist game Feb. 17 at Carolina.
However, that’s where Krejci’s maturity comes in. In the past, he might’ve sulked over his lack of production. But now just less than a month from his 23rd birthday and completing his second full NHL season, Krejci has seen the light as far as putting the team first.
“Now is the time of year that you’ve got to sacrifice your (numbers) and you’ve got to do more stuff for the team,” he told TheBruinsBlog.net after practice today in Wilmington, Mass. “At the end of the year, I want to look at the statistics for the team and really win something than to be out of the playoffs and be happy with myself. I don’t want that. So you’ve just got to sacrifice for the team and do those things I don’t like to do. But it’s going to help us.”
“I’m talking more about finishing checks more than I do. Block more shots than I do. Be more ready for the faceoffs,” he explained when pressed for a list of things he doesn’t like to do a lot. “Sometimes when I don’t go on the power play, I’ve got to keep the good energy and keep cheering for the guys — and just sacrifice everything for the team.”
A practical “points machine” in junior and the AHL before graduating to the varsity full-time last season, Krejci has fine-tuned those other areas of his game so that when he’s not producing he’s not a liability. That’s why head coach Claude Julien continues to use him on the penalty kill, give him a regular shift over the course of the game and keeps Krejci in the lineup night in and night out.
“He still competes hard and he’s been very reliable at the defensive end of our game,” the coach said. “The part that he’s still working hard and he’s making plays is there. I guess that if his stats were better, I don’t think we’d be saying much around David right now. I think his stats are what is making everybody talk about his slump. But I don’t think his game overall has gone south at all.”
Krejci is one of just five Bruins players to skate in all 73 games. That type of workload can take its toll on any player, never mind a second-year NHLer. His schedule in junior and the AHL was just as loaded, but the competition was obviously not as stiff. Would a one-game respite like the one longtime linemate Blake Wheeler took earlier this month have helped recharge Krejci?
“You’re talking like that I need it or something?” he replied.
Then when asked if he thought that maybe a little rest would do him good, he admitted that sometimes he feels rundown. But then the rink and the games serve as his own personal smelling salt.
“When I’m sitting before the game, when I’m sitting on the bench, I want to be back on the ice all the time,” he said. “Sometimes I feel like I have two different (sides). I feel like I’m getting tired and don’t feel like I want to do something. Then I’m on the bench or in the room and I just need to go on the ice.”
The Bruins’ seven-game loss to Montreal last spring provided Krejci his first taste of the NHL postseason. He’s anxious to get back in the thick of it. And he knows that even if his scoring continues to sputter, it’s his entire game — and that of all his teammates — that will drive the Bruins where they want to be.
“Everybody’s going to be important to the team. Even the guy who might be scratched for the first few games, the first round, he might be real important down the stretch,” said Krejci. “Everybody’s got to be on the same page and have a good attitude. Especially me, I’ve got to have a good attitude, no matter what happens in the series. I believe if you’re going to do those things … players have to do things they don’t like to do. That’s what makes (teams) successful in the playoffs. And everybody’s got to do that.”