UNIONDALE, NY Chris Kelly is fond of saying that nobody playing hockey as a kid grows up saying they want to be a defensive forward.
But the versatile forward need not ever call himself just a defensive forward after Saturday afternoon.
Kelly is still a responsible two-way player, of course. But the versatile center is also a viable offensive performer for the Boston Bruins, and announced it by notching his 20th goal of the season in Saturday afternoons 6-3 victory over the Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
Im not surprised, to be honest with you. The way hes played all year has been amazing, said Patrice Bergeron. Hes so responsible defensively, but he still creates chances for his line.
It was a timely goal for the team as it handed the Bruins a 2-1 lead five minutes into the second period before the Boston offense exploded all over a shaky Isles defense in the final minutes of the game. It was also a beauty of a score as Kelly read a telegraphed bank pass off the boards and sped into the offensive while intercepting the pass and moving toward the net.
Kelly hustled into the slot area with enough speed that he got Isles goalie Al Montoya sliding left-to-right and then the Bs center buried a top shelf shot over the goaltenders outstretched glove hand. The score allowed the Bruins to improve to 18-0-0 this season when Kelly scores a goal, and that statistic speaks directly to how important the third lines secondary scoring is to Boston success.
I was so happy and pleased for Kelly. Hes had a really good year for us. Hes been a good soldier for us ever since we got him, said Claude Julien. Not only was it an important goal, but it was a nice goal too. He had the goalie going the other way and then he shot it to the short side.
It was a simple play executed through Kellys anticipation and hockey smarts, and it also allowed him to call himself something that he never had a chance to with the Ottawa Senators: a 20-goal scorer.
Its great timing for the 29-year-old Kelly given that hes going to be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason with no deal in place with the Bruins, but the humble, classy pivot merely said it was a function of the talented team hes playing on.
Its nice to get that milestone, obviously. Id never scored 20 goals in the NHL before, said Kelly. Im a perfect example of the product of being on a good team. Everybody plays hard, plays together and plays for one another.
In typical Kelly fashion he also said he needed to score that goal because his third line was on the ice for a pair of goals allowed early in the game. Thats the kind of personal responsibility and self-discipline that allows Kelly to fill an important supportleadership role with a championship-level Bruins team. Its also the biggest reason why he should be wearing Black and Gold for years to come despite free agency staring him in the face once the season is over.