BOSTON – It was a shock to most after the Bruins were eliminated in the Eastern Conference semifinals by Carolina last spring that center David Krejci had not only been suffering through severe hip pain in the postseason and even during the entire regular season.
After all, he had posted 73 points in 82 regular season games and followed that up with 13 points in 11 playoff games. Sure he said the adrenaline of playing games, plus the work of the medical staff, made him mostly pain-free for 60-plus minutes of action a night. But the limited mobility he felt off the ice had to creep into his game at least a tad over the course of the NHL grind, and might have contributed to his goal-less, three-point performance in the seven-game thriller with the Hurricanes.
One offseason surgery later, we’re finding just how dangerous a 100-percent healthy Krejci can be under the heat of playoff pressure. Krejci capped off a great six-game series with Buffalo by scoring twice and adding an assist in Boston’s series-clinching 4-3 victory tonight at TD Garden.
He finished the series with five points, a plus-1 rating and a 50.6 percent faceoff success rate.
“I just go out there and try to play my game, you know,” he said after the win. “I’m not looking at what happened in the past. Just want to play my game and help the team win.”
It’s truly been a battle for Krejci, who while rehabilitating after his hip surgery, did not play in any preseason games. He went the first four games of the season without a point and nine games without a goal. In fact, he finished the first two months of the season with 12 points in 24 games and it looked like he had maybe made a mistake in rushing back into the lineup.
Just this morning, Krejci was reminiscing about his return from his hip problem. He admitted he didn’t start to feel himself until a little bit before the Olympic break. Maybe buoyed by his selection to the Czech Republic team, he finished the first half strong and was his nation’s best player during a disappointing tournament team-wise. That carried over to his return to the Bruins, as he posted 10-21-31 totals in 40 games in the second half after putting up just 21 points in 39 first-half games. Just as amazing, he made it through 79 games, missing one for an undisclosed injury and two for H1N1.
So if the Olympic break in February was the real start of his season, that means Krejci is in midseason form. And if Krejci is in midseason form, that means the Bruins are dangerous. Their other Olympic center Patrice Bergeron hasn’t slacked off all season and is still playing at peak levels of performance. And now Marc Savard, their leading scorer the last three seasons, seems on the verge of a return from a concussion.
Can Krejci really be the Bruins’ third-line center? If so, he could be the most dangerous third-line center in the league.
“David’s dangerous all the time,” said Bruins defenseman Dennis Wideman. “He’s a good skater. He’s a guy that’s fast but doesn’t look like he’s going very fast. And when he’s got it going the puck finds him. And when he’s got the puck on his stick, he seems to find guys. And I think his cutback move, where he stops and jumps around a guy is faster than most people in the league. It’s one of the best.”
There are a lot of things that a healthy Krejci can do better than most. Whether he’s lugging a puck into the attacking zone on a rush or working along the walls or corners during a power play, his vision and hands can make opposing defenses squirm.
As a rookie in ’08, Krejci got his first taste of the postseason during the seven-game loss to Montreal, and he put up five points. He became a prime contributor during last year’s ill-fated run to the second round. If the 2010 Bruins are fated to go as far as Krejci’s production can rise, than this might be a season that’s headed for summer.