David Krejci’s career has been one of brilliant bursts dotted with quiet stretches.
This season has been an exception.
For nine games, Krejci has played with the kind of consistency that puts smiles on coaches’ faces. Patrice Bergeron traditionally has been Bruins coach Claude Julien’s most dependable forward. But Krejci’s steady rhythm has made him even more valuable than Bergeron. Krejci (3-6—9) has been the team’s best skater.
“Real happy with David’s play,” Julien said. “I think, if anything, he’s been as consistent as we’ve seen him. He’s been not a good, but a great player for us. The part that I like about David is that he’s playing and skating well.”
Krejci’s statistics are proof of Julien’s trust. Krejci leads the team with 9 points. Two of his three goals have been game-winners. Krejci leads Boston forwards with 19:51 of ice time per game, and has won 57.4 percent of his faceoffs. He has centered Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, forming the team’s most effective offensive line.
Even when Tyler Seguin replaced Horton in the third period of Wednesday’s win in Montreal, Krejci clicked immediately with his new right wing. On their first two shifts, the line punched in two goals.
“I think it’s confidence,” Lucic said. “When [Krejci] plays with confidence, he plays with that poise. He’s making those plays. That’s when he’s playing at his best. He’s been playing with a lot of confidence from Day One. Looking back at the last five, six years, when he’s been at his best, it’s when he’s had that.”
The Bruins have never doubted Krejci’s skill. The 26-year-old has the slickest hands and sharpest playmaking eyes on the roster.
Krejci’s play had dipped, however, when he didn’t skate with purpose. He became more passive than active. Krejci likes to slow the pace to allow plays to develop. At times, Krejci was too slow and too patient.
This season, Krejci has played at an upbeat pace. The results have been excellent.
“There’s not a part of David Krejci’s game right now that he’s not doing,” Julien said. “As long as you’ve got David in that frame of mind, you’ve got a really good player.”
Krejci showed both sides — the skilled and the lunchpail — of his game in Wednesday’s third period. On the newly formed line’s first shift, Krejci had the puck on the right wing. Seguin was curling and hunting for space at the far post.
Krejci knew where Seguin was going, but Seguin needed time and space to get there. Krejci bought him both.
By drifting to the right corner, Krejci pulled Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov his way. At the same time, Seguin accelerated to get a step on Alexei Emelin. Krejci then had to pull off a perfect saucer pass to place the puck on Seguin’s blade.
No problem. With his backhand, Seguin tapped Krejci’s feed past goaltender Carey Price for the tying goal.
“I saw him there,” Krejci said. “I knew he was ready. I was hoping for the best. I thought I’d just put it on his backhand. Behind him, there was not too much traffic.”
On the following shift, Krejci looked to his legs. The Bruins had a three-on-two rush through the neutral zone. When Lucic had the puck on the left wing, Krejci didn’t hesitate. Krejci turned on the turbos, left Canadiens forward Tomas Plekanec behind, and went to the crease. Lucic got around Emelin to spot Krejci at the far post.
“I just tried to get behind the defenseman so I could make that pass,” Lucic said. “I just saw him driving the net. I put it in an area where he could put it in the back of the net. You look at both goals last game, it’s about getting to that far post. You look at the NHL, a lot of goals are scored that way.”
Julien didn’t say whether Seguin would remain on Krejci’s flank for Sunday night’s game in Buffalo. It’s possible Horton could return to the top line.
Regardless of who is on the wing, Krejci is the catalyst in the middle. He is on a point-per-game pace.
This is the first season of Krejci’s three-year, $15.75 million contract extension. Among forwards, Krejci currently has the team’s highest average annual value.
Because of Krejci’s cap hit and the organization’s depth at center, teams had inquired about his availability. The cap will dip to $64.3 million in 2013-14. The Bruins must re-sign Tuukka Rask. Horton and Andrew Ference will be unrestricted free agents.
The team’s tightness against the cap may have once made the Bruins consider moving Krejci. But teams don’t move their best skaters. At this pace, Krejci has earned his raise and an exit from trade chatter.
“It’s pretty nice to look at the standings and see that,” Krejci said of the club’s 7-1-1 record. “As long as the team’s doing well, I’m just glad that me and my line can contribute offensively, as well. That’s why we’re here. We’ve just got to keep going.”