There are a few storylines that have permeated the Boston Bruins’ run to the Eastern Conference final, which is one win away from becoming a trip to the Stanley Cup final for the first time since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign.
The first is the play of the top line, the trio of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand. Broken up early and later thrown back together, the line was projected to be the focal point the Bruins’ run. The second is the outstanding performance of goaltender Tuukka Rask, who has undeniably been Boston’s post-season MVP and is a Conn Smythe Trophy frontrunner with the Bruins on the cusp of a return to the Stanley Cup final. And the third is the way in which the Bruins’ depth has stepped up when needed – in Game 7 of the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, throughout the second round against the Columbus Blue Jackets and again in what is now on the verge of becoming a sweep of the Carolina Hurricanes – to keep this run alive.
But we propose a fourth storyline, this one about one of the most consistent playoff performers of the post-lockout era who is again proving to be an impact player when the games matter most. And as the Bruins head towards a near certain date with either the San Jose Sharks or St. Louis Blues in the Stanley Cup final, David Krejci deserves his due.
Consider for a second what Krejci has managed this post-season. Through 16 games, it’s he – not Bergeron, not Pastrnak, not even the white-hot Charlie Coyle – who ranks second in post-season scoring in Boston behind Marchand. Krejci’s four goals are more than every other Bruins save the four above-listed forwards, and his 13 points put him three behind Marchand for the team lead. Included in Krejci’s production is one game-winning goal, and he made teh pass that led to Marchand’s Game 3 winner against the Hurricanes. Furthermore, Krejci had the primary assist on the season-saving game-winning goal in Game 6 against Toronto and the primary helper on the power play goal that turned around Game 1 against Carolina.
It’s not only that he’s produced some big points, though. It’s that he’s produced points consistently. In fact, Krejci hasn’t really had one big game all post-season. His goal and two-point performance in Game 6 against Columbus was his best single-game offensive output of these playoffs. He has, however, registered at least one point in all but four games this post-season, including at least one point in all three games of the conference final. Textbook consistency.
That Krejci has been able to fly somewhat under the radar and become the somewhat of an unsung hero this post-season in Boston isn’t all that surprising, however. Despite the fact he had an excellent campaign, posting 20 goals and matching his career-best 73-point total set a decade ago, Krejci likely fell fifth or sixth in order of importance to the Bruins’ post-season fortunes in the minds of most. Bergeron is undoubtedly in top spot, followed closely by Marchand and Pastrnak. After that, most would list off Rask, top defenseman Charlie McAvoy or veteran captain Zdeno Chara – depending how one feels about him given his age and the slowdown he’s shown at times, that is.
The oddity of it all is that Krejci lands so far down the list despite the fact he’s the franchise’s highest paid player. That he does earn more than any of his above listed teammates is a bone of contention in Boston and has been for some time, and when Krejci has a stretch where he’s off the scoresheet or sidelined, the discussion inevitably turns to what it would take for the Bruins to offload what’s left of a deal that pays the pivot $7.25-million per season. But you’re not going to hear a peep of that chatter right now. With good reason, too, because Krejci is earning his keep with his post-season performance, just as he’s done in the past.
Though most would likely guess Bergeron, who arrived in Boston the season prior to the NHL’s lost season, is the Bruins’ top playoff scorer in the post-lockout era, it’s actually Krejci, and not by all that slim of a margin. Though he’s played 124 playoff games to Bergeron’s 121 contests, Krejci has an eight-point lead on Bergeron, the former registering 100 points to the latter’s 92 points while the two are tied for the post-lockout franchise lead with 36 playoff goals apiece. Measured against the 34 players who have seen at least 20 playoff games in the Spoked ‘B’ in the post-lockout era, too, Krejci has produced at a better point per game rate than every active Bruin save Pastrnak and ranks fourth overall behind Pastrnak, Marc Savard and Nathan Horton.
Elevating Krejci to the top of Boston's scoring list and vaulting his per-game production into the franchise’s top-four in this era – not to mention making him one of only 15 players in the post-lockout era with 100 playoff points – are a pair of outstanding performances. During the 2010-11 Stanley Cup run, Krejci scored a playoff-best 12 goals and 23 points in 25 games. In 2012-13, when the Bruins came within two wins of the Stanley Cup but fell short against the Chicago Blackhawks, Krejci led all players with 17 post-season assists and 26 playoff points.
It’s rather fitting, though, that as Krejci continues on another stellar post-season run, he’s again being overshadowed by at least one of his teammates. In 2010-11, Bruins netminder Tim Thomas stole the spotlight and won the Conn Smythe after almost singlehandedly stealing the Stanley Cup from the Vancouver Canucks. In 2012-13, too, Rask was otherworldly, ending the playoffs with a .940 save percentage and 1.88 goals-against average. Chances are he, not Krejci, would have taken the Conn Smythe had Boston stepped into the winner’s circle once again. And this time it’s Marchand and Rask – as well as Bergeron, Pastrnak and role players such as Coyle – who’ve relegated Krejci to unsung hero status.
But if his personal playoff performances are any indication, maybe that’s when Krejci is at his best. And you can take it to the bank that he’ll care naught where he’s counted among the Bruins’ key post-season contributors if this entire run ends the way Krejci no doubt envisions: with the Stanley Cup hoisted high above his head.
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