Quick question: When you reminisce about the Bruins' Stanley Cup run two seasons ago, who is the second player to come to mind?
I mean, I think the first is pretty much unanimous among us, right? Tim Thomas is out of sight now, presumably somewhere in Colorado protecting his property with the fervor with which he once protected the net.
But he'll never be far out of our minds, his performance during the journey through the 2010-11 postseason redefining the concept of a hot goalie.
But second? That's interesting. There are more than three stars' worth of candidates deserving of consideration.
Was it Zdeno Chara, the indefatigable captain and defensive bulkhead? Or Mr. Overtime, Nathan Horton?
How about Brad Marchand, his beak the beacon to the clinching victory in Vancouver?
Maybe Patrice Bergeron, another Game 7 stalwart whose array of skills both subtle and obvious gives him the value of multiple quality players?
All worthy choices. But as we were reminded once again during the Bruins' exhilarating 4-3 overtime victory over the Maple Leafs Wednesday night in Game 4 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series, it's always wise to remember what David Krejci brings to this team.
Which, plainly put, is a knack for using his extraordinary talent to produce extraordinary performances when the games matter most.
It's tempting to suggest that Krejci's hat trick in Game 4, including an almost casual winner at 13:06 of overtime in which his celebration – essentially a half-fist-pump and a smile – suggested the ending was hardly unexpected to him, was the game of a lifetime. The reality, sometimes lost amid the plaudits dished to his teammates, is that he's been doing stuff like this when the stakes are high for more than two years now.
In 63 career playoff games, Krejci has 25 goals – a number he has never achieved in a single regular season – and 32 assists, with a plus/minus of 25. Two seasons ago, during the Cup run, he was the leading scorer in the postseason with 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games.
The year before that, he had eight points in nine games before his season ended with a dislocated wrist in the second-round against Philadelphia. He was pivotal in building a 3-0 lead in that series, and the Bruins would not have lost the next four games had he not been lost.
He's been downright stellar in every postseason but the last one, when he had a goal, two assists, and was symbolically flattened by a pane of glass falling from the boards as the Bruins' reign ended in a seven-game loss to the Capitals.
Still, over his last 45 playoff games, he has 22 goals and 22 assists, and he's the leading scorer thus far during this postseason with 10 points in five games. Playing with the calm and poise of a point guard whose command of the game seems to slow everything down and slice through the chaos, he nearly had two more goals Wednesday night. He hit the side of the net when the Bruins were in an early 2-0 hole in the first period, and he nearly duped Leafs goalie James Reimer with a quick shot between a defenseman's legs minutes before he finally ended it.
I should note that's not the first time I've made the point guard comparison with Krejci. He's not quite as bullheaded, but sometimes I do think of him as the Bruins' version of Rajon Rondo, a player as smart as he is gifted and yet one prone to playing down to the level of competition sometimes.
Krejci has admitted as much, that he does get bored sometimes during the regular season, that a Tuesday night game in February in Winnipeg can be work rather than play. Conversely, like Rondo, he also is supercharged and at his best when the spotlight is on and the competition is of high quality. I'll never forget watching Krejci sparkle at the Vancouver Olympics and realizing that not only can he hold his own with the elite players in the world, but he can actually outperform them.
Krejci glides. That can be good (the graceful performance Wednesday) and bad (the expectation of more during the regular season can be exasperating when it doesn't happen).
But he's everything you could possibly want in the big moments – calm, poised, skilled, and consistently productive.
It's that time of year. His time of year. David Krejci is rolling, and with help from his friends, the Bruins might just be rolling too.
About Touching All The Bases
Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.