MONTREAL – Usually, David Krejci is piling up points in the post-season, but not this year.
The Boston Bruins’ top-line centre had no goals and only three assists through the first 10 playoff games. Like Max Pacioretty on the opposing Montreal Canadiens, he is starting to feel some heat for his lack of production.
“It feels like it’s right there,” Krejci said Monday as the Bruins prepared for a crack at eliminating Montreal in Game 6 of their NHL Eastern Conference semifinal. “We have to start putting the puck in the net more often.
“My linemates (Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla) have been doing a pretty good job at it. They’ve been great for me the whole year, so I want to return the favour and try to be better for them.”
Krejci led the playoffs in scoring with nine goals and 26 points in 22 games a year ago, when the Bruins lost to Chicago in the Stanley Cup final. He also went on a tear when Boston won the Cup in 2011 with 23 playoff points.
But while Lucic had a decent three goals and four assists and Iginla scored four times and added two helpers, little has been happening for the guy who normally is the playmaker on the top unit. Other than, as usual, winning well over half of his faceoffs.
“I believe my time is about to come and I’m going to be big for my team,” he said. “I owe it to these guys.
“I know we don’t live in the past. But I’ve been in the position before were I know I can be ‘the’ player, so I’m trying to stay positive. Go out and work hard. My teammates have been doing a good job of winning hockey games, so I believe my time is just around the corner.”
Second-line centre Patrice Bergeron and the third line centred by Carl Soderberg were the main offensive threats for the Bruins.
Krejci hasn’t been helped by the opponents Boston has faced. Both Montreal and Detroit are quick, skating teams that relay more on puck pressure than physical play. Krejci has struggled against the Canadiens in the past.
Coach Claude Julien wasn’t surprised to hear that Krejci feels indebted to his teammates.
“He’s just a character guy,” said Julien. “He’s demanding of himself and he’s been a good player for us all year.”
Krejci was the first player on the ice for their game-day skate, but said he wasn’t making any point.
“At this time, when you’re in a little slump like I am, then you have to work on your game and I’ve been trying to do that,” he said. “Like I said, I owe it to these guys, so I want to come up big for them.”
As he did ahead of Game 4, a 1-0 overtime win for Boston at the Bell Centre, Julien played around with his lines at the skate. They were expected to be back to normal by puck-drop.
The Canadiens, who skated at their practice rink in Brossard, Que., caused a stir with broad hints that rookie Nathan Beaulieu would start on defence in place of Douglas Murray. Coach Michel Therrien kept his starting lineup to himself, however.
“It’s been good to be around the group,” said Beaulieu, who has been practising with the main group in recent days. “Playoff hockey, it doesn’t get any bigger than that, and it doesn’t get any bigger than Montreal.”
It will be the first game since the incident at the end of Game 5 in which Bruins forward Shawn Thornton squirted water from the bench onto P.K. Subban’s visor. Thornton was fined by the NHL for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Therrien said it may end up helping his team.
“A lack of respect can sometimes serve as motivation,” he said.