BOSTON – Speculation has run rampant that despite his return after just six games on the sidelines, center David Krejci has been still feeling the effects of the concussion he suffered Nov. 6.
After all, there has to be a reason that in 32 games since his return he has put up just 24 points and he heads into the All-Star break goal-less in his last 16.
Krejci said after he notched an assist in the Bruins’ 2-1 win over Florida at TD Garden tonight that aside from some bumps and bruises, he’s 100 percent healthy. And if anything has caused him some off nights, it’s been a mental block more than a physical hurdle.
“I don’t think I struggled [a lot]. There were some games where I didn’t have any goals or some points. People look at me as an offensive player, and if I play – there were some bad games – but I don’t think I struggled,” he said. “I’d play maybe one bad game, but then I bounce back. Sometimes I was lacking some confidence, that’s for sure. I feel I have confidence from our coach and that gives me big confidence for myself. So hopefully I’ll feel confidence from the coach from now until the end of the year and I’ll be trying to do my best on the ice.”
For a few trying minutes tonight, it looked like Krejci might not be able to give Boston his best for a while. The Bruins suffered a scare when a hard fall into the boards in the first period sent Krejci off to the hallway, where he was luckily able to walk off a “stinger” in his left arm. Without missing a shift, Krejci was back in his place in Boston’s lineup between Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic. In the second period, he beat David Booth clean on a faceoff to set up what proved to be the game-winning goal by Lucic.
And maybe Krejci’s reunion with Lucic and Horton, for three periods tonight and two Monday night in Los Angeles, is just what the doctor ordered.
With Savard on the sidelines to start this season, the Lucic-Krejci-Horton line came out of the gates like gangbusters. Krejci popped nine points in eight games, while Horton registered nine points (five goals) and Lucic produced seven points (four goals). It seemed that all doubts about the Bruins possessing a first line were crushed. However, Lucic has thrived to the tune of 20 goals on the season (he scored one of Boston’s two tonight) even though he has changed linemates a few times. No combination has been able to get Krejci and Horton going full-bore again.
Krejci, who admitted that in his NHL career his post-All-Star or Olympic performances have been better than how he has played before those midseason events, thinks the magic might be back.
“I think I did pretty well at the beginning of the year. Looch and Horts [and I] did pretty well. We hit a little bump but I think [the team has] been playing well. We have in the last 10 games seven wins. The team is doing well,” he said. “And Looch is scoring goals off of my passes, so I’m happy to see that. I want to bring Horty on the board too. Hopefully we can do it. And, yeah, it might feel like the beginning of the season.”
Krejci, who also set up two Lucic goals in Denver last Saturday, is never one to shy away from self criticism and analysis. He knows that when he suffers through a quiet night, there’s a reoccurring reason.
“Well I’ve got make things happen. When you have a couple bad games I look at it, I look at what I did wrong,” he said. “Sometimes I don’t skate and I go at one speed, and for defensemen it’s easy for them to read me. So I try to go from fast to slow and change speeds from slower to faster and make something happen. So I did that a few times today and the last couple games we got some chances, we got some goals so it’s good.”
It was almost as though head coach Claude Julien ordered up the production Krejci and Lucic provided tonight. After his team’s shutout loss at Los Angeles, Julien said the team cannot succeed with just one line (Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi) being asked to score all the goals. Marchand scored the first goal of the night off an assist by Bergeron. But there aren’t many teams that can go as far as the Bruins want to with just one line clicking, and Krejci and Lucic hooked up in the middle stanza.
Bruins fans can take solace that there’s only one center on the club battling the effects of a concussion. While Savard will be sorely missed for the duration of his absence, Krejci can lessen the blow by continuing to come up with answers when he struggles and find a level of consistency that has escaped him through a little more than half the NHL season.