Better late than never for Bruins’ Kelly’s on-ice production

Kelly/By S. Bradley

BOSTON – First immigration kept him from the joining the Bruins. And then it took a while to notice he was even there once he pulled on the black-and-gold sweater.

Chris Kelly, however, never doubted that he’d be a strong fit for the Bruins either after Ottawa traded him to its division rival or during the 21 games it took him to finally score his first goal for Boston.

Now Kelly’s filled every role envisioned for him, including points-producer, during the Bruins’ run to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final, which gets underway in Vancouver Wednesday night.

“Obviously, when you come to a new team, you want to contribute, you want to fit in, you want to be the difference right off the bat,” said Kelly this week. “When I came here, I just tried to fit in and do what I could. And the team was winning and that was the most important thing. I think points don’t define me as a player. They never have and I don’t think they ever will. But it’s always nice to contribute offensively.

“If I would have just had points and we lost in the first round, no one would’ve cared how I was doing. Obviously the bigger picture is how the team’s doing.”

After the Bruins acquired Kelly for a second-round pick Feb. 15, he had to miss a game while customs took care of his paper work. He then proceeded to score just two goals in his 24 regular-season games with the Bruins. There was no telling if he would ever get the chance to show what he could do until next season. But then he and his first-round linemates Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley began to produce as a unit. Montreal was dispatched in the first round, and the Bruins then won two more rounds.

Heading into the Cup showdown with Vancouver, Kelly has 4-7-11 totals in 18 playoff games. Points might not define him, but they sure make his resume look a lot better. Oddly enough, he’s only won 44 percent of his postseason draws. However, he’s averaged nearly a blocked shot and a hit per game and has been one of the forwards head coach Claude Julien’s leaned on at the end of close games.

“You saw them on the ice the last two games that we had to protect that lead with [Patrice] Bergeron,” said Julien about Kelly and Peverley, who was also acquired in a February trade. “And they had some speed, they add some real smarts to the game as far as forechecking and ready to play. And I think to me it’s given me some, I guess some confidence in having certain players out there in certain stages of the game. And those two guys have certainly helped us fill that role.”

Personally, Kelly didn’t have that much of a hard time fitting in with the Bruins. He credits the western road swing the team took for helping him, Peverley and Tomas Kaberle adjust to their new team. On the ice, however, it took a while for him to get going.

Now not only can he contribute on the ice, but he can impart his wisdom to his younger teammates and ones of all ages that haven’t been this far in the playoffs. Like teammate Andrew Ference, Kelly’s one and only trip to the Cup Final ended in defeat. That ’07 Ottawa club came up short against Anaheim (a team featuring Bruins teammate Shawn Thornton) in a series that left an impression on Kelly.

“I think it’s maybe made me a better player, made me appreciate things a little more,” said Kelly about the loss. “Getting to the Cup final with Ottawa was a great experience, a great time and obviously something I’ll cherish. But I think I’ve learned a lot as well and hopefully I can take those lessons and move forward.”

Kelly was able to move forward from the disappointment of the Senators’ defeat and the struggles he suffered after first arriving in Boston. Now nothing should keep him from being a factor in his second career Cup Final.

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