If the Bruins can count on David Krejci to perform the way he did Tuesday night in Atlanta over the season’s final 10 games, they might do more than just barely qualify for the playoffs.
Krejci registered one goal and one assist in the Bruins’ pivotal 4-0 win over the Thrashers, and played with the type of savvy and grit in all three zones the Bruins expected from the center but have only witness sporadically since Day One of the season.
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The Bruins have needed more from Krejci all season, as their offensive ineptitude and injuries have taken a toll. Marc Savard’s absence has made Krejci’s contributions even more important. With some signs of improvement in recent games, plus his all-around great effort in Atlanta, Krejci might be saving his best for last in this underachieving campaign by both the center and the team.
Krejci showed how many ways he can beat a team throughout the evening. He got the Bruins on the board first with yeoman’s work behind the net and then a nose for the front of the goal before banging in the loose puck at the right post. Later, he lost a draw and anticipated Tobias Enstrom’s pass up the wall well enough to steal the puck and set up Milan Lucic’s separation goal.
All night Krejci was backchecking hard and helping Boston make up for the early injury loss of good friend Vladimir Sobotka. After an abysmal start at the faceoff dots, Krejci recovered to finish the night 8-for-20 (40 percent).
Last summer, the Bruins paid Krejci – a restricted free agent – like a player they wanted to build around. A combination of offseason hip surgery, a lineup juggled by injuries, more aware defenses and some occasionally lackadaisical play have prevented Krejci from improving on his breakout season of 2008-09. While he doesn’t have a chance to match his point totals from his breakout year, he at least can end things on an up note with a high-caliber stretch run.
Other notes from the Atlanta win
•Tough to see Sobotka get his bell rung by Evgeni Artyukhin. The hit was clean, but what do the hockey gods have against Bruins centers? If you’re a Boston pivot, odds are you’ve missed some time with injury.
•It’s always thrilling when a rookie goaltender records a shutout and stops a penalty shot. However, Colby Armstrong wasn’t exactly a fearsome force against Tuukka Rask on that penalty shot. It was the first time he attempted one in his career, and he has only been tabbed in a shootout once all-time. That he settled for a wrist shot from the slot shouldn’t have been a surprise.
•Dominated in faceoffs by Atlanta until early in the second period, Boston recovered to only lose the battle 52-48 percent. That’s a sign both of the Bruins’ determination and the Thrashers’ indifference as Boston pulled away.
•After the game, head coach Claude Julien pointed out on NESN that the Bruins didn’t want to disappoint Norwood teenager Matt Brown, who was at the game. Brown is recovering at the Shepherd Center from paralysis sustained during a high school hockey game last month. By the way, you can donate money to help the Brown family with medical expenses by clicking here.