PHILADELPHIA – If Game 1 of the Bruins’ Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia proved anything, it was that the Flyers are going to have to keep a closer watch on Boston center David Krejci.
Krejci burned the Flyers for two goals, including a score just 1:52 into the game, and two assists, as the Bruins grabbed the early series lead Saturday.
The task of checking Krejci should fall a lot upon the Flyers’ line centered by Mike Richards and completed by wingers Daniel Carcillo and Kris Versteeg. It’s the latter winger who has the most experience with Boston’s premier playmaker because the two go back together all the way to their time with the Bruins’ Providence (AHL) farm club.
The Bruins drafted Krejci 63rd overall (second round) and Versteeg 134th overall (fifth round) in 2004. From there, the organization envisioned a Krejci-to-Versteeg connection for years to come. Instead, general manager Peter Chiarelli, and a new regime than the one that completed that draft, dealt Versteeg to Chicago for Brandon Bochenski in February 2007.
“It definitely is weird. He’s a guy that I’m going to be lined up against, I think, a lot. Back in the day, I think me and him were very good players together,” said Versteeg about Krejci today after the Flyers’ morning skate in preparation for Game 2 of the series at the Wells Fargo Center. “We worked really well together and played really well together and got along really well off the ice. But now you’re kind of going against a friend and he’s not a friend right now. So it’s definitely a lot of fun. It’s a little weird too.”
Versteeg, who was point-less with a minus-1 rating in Game 1, and Krejci have kept in touch over the years, but not in the days leading up to or during this series. Both declared “there are no friends in the playoffs” during pregame chatter with the media this morning. While some of us might still picture what it would’ve been like for Krejci to set up Versteeg for goals in a black-and-gold sweater, Krejci doesn’t have time for fantasies.
“I like the players I have on my line now. I wouldn’t trade them for him,” said Boston’s center.
Playing against Krejci in a playoff series is far from the strangest thing to happen in Versteeg’s career. He won the Stanley Cup last spring with Chicago at the Flyers’ expense. Then in Blackhawks’ salary-cutting over the summer he was traded to the Leafs, who months later dealt him to the Flyers. One year later, Versteeg’s on the other side of the 2010 Stanley Cup Final coin.
“At the start when I first got here, it was weird,” said Versteeg, who totaled 21 goals and 46 points combined with Toronto and Philadelphia this season. “Now you try to kind of put that aside and really just focus on your task at hand and maybe sit and think about it more so in the summer time, and think about how ironic it is and I guess how neat it could be too if you do win with these guys this year.”
Except for his lack of size – he’s listed at 5-foot-10, 182 pounds – Versteeg personifies everything you’d expect out of a player for the Broad Street Bullies. His hard-nosed style has made him a four-time 20-plus-goal scorer and a coveted player by many teams. Let’s face it, he would fit in great with Boston.
Even before he pulled on a Flyers sweater, Versteeg knew he’d be able to make his mark because of what he learned about the Philadelphia franchise during last year’s playoffs and Cup final.
“You definitely learn about one team playing against them in a seven-game series,” said Versteeg. “You learn about the skill they had and how much heart they had too. We knew about all this, but then we played against them and you see when they always came back and were relentless. But then you come here and you almost know what it’s all about for the Flyers.”
Although he’s been traded twice since the move from Boston to Chicago, Versteeg still has feelings for the Bruins. He’s appreciative that Mike O’Connell and Jeff Gorton drafted him for Boston and understands why the Bruins eventually traded him considering the wealth of talent the team had coming up the pipeline.
That understanding, however, doesn’t stop him from trying extra hard for some measure of revenge.
“It was the first time in my professional career I’d been traded. It was almost out of the blue. I thought that as a Bruin I was doing everything I could to help that organization. Whatever organization I go to I’m always going to try my hardest and do my best. …
“[I] look at it as a little extra bit of motivation for myself.”
The Bruins have to hope that they’re not looking wronger for that trade after this series than they even were before.