David Krejci is supposed to be the Bruins’ No. 1 center.
He’s talked about serving in that role from around the time it looked like Marc Savard might never be the same right through present day. And for long stretches of the last several years, Krejci has been that player.
The 2013 season challenged Krejci and his linemates’ claim to that No. 1 line mantle, as Milan Lucic scored just seven goals, Nathan Horton registered just 22 points and Krejci totaled a pedestrian 33 points. Toronto coach Randy Carlyle must’ve been watching the regular season. And it’s obvious which Bruins line he considers No. 1.
Throughout the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series between the Bruins and Maple Leafs, Carlyle has favored the matchup of his No. 2 defense pair, Mark Fraser and Cody Franson, against Krejci’s line. In the Bruins’ 5-2 win Monday night in Toronto, Krejci and his mates continued to make Carlyle pay for that decision.
While Toronto’s No. 1 pair of Dion Phaneuf and Carl Gunnarsson has slowed down the line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Tyler Seguin, Krejci’s line now has 5-12-17 totals in three games. In the Game 3 win, Krejci, Lucic and Horton combined for eight points and a plus-9 rating. That line has been on the ice for seven of the Bruins’ 11 goals in this series.
In Boston, where Toronto made the first change, one could excuse Carlyle for this matchup. But with the second change in Toronto, he continued to treat the Bergeron like it’s the first line. Everyone knows that the Bruins’ offense is decent with Bergeron’s line leading the way, but it’s only championship caliber when Krejci’s line gets going.
Last spring, Karl Alzner and John Carlson kept Krejci’s line in check just long enough to lead Washington to a seven-game first-round win. In 2011, the Bruins barely escaped the Montreal series despite P.K. Subban and Hal Gill putting the clamps on Krejci’s line. Without the big, bulky bodies of Phaneuf and Gunnarsson in their way, Krejci and his linemates are running roughshod on the Maple Leafs. It might be too late to stop the Bruins now, even if Carlyle switches the matchups. It might even be that whoever gets to face Fraser and Franson is going to have a field day.
Nonetheless, I would’ve leaned toward stalling Krejci’s line and taking my chances against Bergeron’s line, which struggled down the stretch along with the rest of the Bruins’ offense.
They’d never admit it, but David Krejci, Nathan Horton and Milan Lucic have to be somewhat insulted by not facing the Leafs’ best defensemen every time they’re on the ice. Of course, it’s the type of insult you’d thank Carlyle for it you’re Krejci, Lucic and Horton.