BOSTON — What are the expectations for P.J. Axelsson anyway?
David Krejci was presented with the NESN Seventh Player Award before the Boston Bruins defeated the Ottawa Senators, 3-1, tonight at TD Banknorth Garden for exceeded expectations in the eyes of the fans.
But when you ponder “The Curious Case of P.J. Axelsson,” how do you measure his value, how do you figure out if he’s living up to his end of the bargain and how do you know if he’s making a contribution? I’ll admit it, sometimes it seems like he’s clogging up the works. Sometimes he seems like he wants to make missing an open net his second-best hobby after making sure he looks good off the ice with his hip Euro styles. And in the hitting department, he’ll never be known as the “Slugger from Stockholm.”
But then there are nights like tonight when you realize that the longest-tenured Bruin is more than just a pretty face and a quirky quote. When the planets align just right, he can become a playmaker or even an enforcer. Against the Sens, he did both.
With the game tied at 1, Axelsson’s steal of Brendan Bell’s clearing pass along the wall in the Sens’ zone and the 34-year-0ld’s ensuing pass to Marc Savard in the slot set up the center’s game-winning goal.
“I guessed. I guessed right for once,” said Axelsson about the play.
If countryman Henrik Lundqvist is “King Henrik” then Axelsson must be “King Modest.” Luckily, Savard is willing to bump up his linemates’ ego.
“Axie doesn’t get a lot of credit for his offensive side,” said the Bruins’ leading scorer. “I think at times, like right now when he’s playing with me, he feels more offensive and tries to create more. And tonight was another example and he made a great play and I was able to put it in.”
Earlier in the contest, Axelsson’s angry side came out. Remember, much like Dr. David Banner, you don’t want to see him when he’s angry. And it seems Sens pest Jarkko Ruutu knows just how to tick off Axelsson. This time, the Ottawa forward did it by running into Bruins goaltender Tim Thomas. After the whistle, Axelsson came flying in from the point and jumped on Ruutu — landing on the opponent with his knees.
“I just got mad because he bumped into Timmy,” said Axelsson.
Last month, Axelsson tackled Ruutu along the boards in a fit of anger as well. Thomas, for one, appreciates “The Incredible Axe.”
“I didn’t realize at the time who was the first one on there. A Swede got a chance to get in a couple punches on a Finn so it was good for me because he stood up for me and it was good for Axie because he got a couple free ones.”
So did Axelsson exceed your expectations? For one night, he shattered mine. And more often than not he does. The Seventh Player Award is such a great tradition and the fans embrace it so. Maybe it’s time to give Axelsson a lifetime Seventh Player Award — that is if you can figure out how to gauge his achievement on the expectations meter.