PITTSBURGH – If anybody could have a superstar ‘tude during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it should be the NHL’s leading scorer in the postseason.
Factor in that the player also led the team in playoff scoring two years ago when they won the Stanley Cup, and one would expect that the player's ego wouldn’t allow his swollen head to fit through hockey dressing room doorways.
But that’s not the case at all with David Krejci, who put on another offensive show in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Krejci added to his gaudy Stanley Cup playoff scoring total with a pair of goals in Boston’s 3-0 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, and he now leads all players with 19 points in 13 games. The Bruins playmaking center has seven goals and a plus-11, two categories in which he's also ranked near the top of the NHL heap.
“[Krejci] is a good player. Why should he be different than [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin, who are good players?” asked Bruins Claude Julien in his postgame comments. “That line was really good for us tonight. They made some great plays and scored some big goals for us.”
Just as the Krejci line thoroughly dominated the proceedings in the first round against the Maple Leafs, they did the very same thing in Game 1 versus Pittsburgh.
The first Krejci score came off a nice pass from Nathan Horton that found the center wide open in the slot, and his shot managed to slide under Paul Martin and in between Tomas Vokoun’s leg pads. The first period goal held until Krejci and Horton were at it again four minutes into the third period
Horton won a one-on-one puck battle with Mark Eaton on the side boards, and fed a pass to a rushing Krejci in the right circle. The Czech Republic pivot’s shot caused a Vokoun rebound that popped way up into the air, and Krejci whacked the bouncing puck past the Pittsburgh goalie to give Boston their needed third period insurance.
“It’s all of it. His defensive game and he’s back in the corners. When he has the puck he makes things happen, and that’s why you get him the puck as much as humanly possible,” said Horton. “When you do that, you know that you’re going to have a good night.”
That both Krejci scores came as Crosby was running around in the defensive end of the ice just made the contrast all the more stark between a pair of players who could be up for Conn Smythe consideration. One spent all of Game 1 working within the team’s system and pouncing on mistakes by his opponent, and the other spent the balance of the game losing face-offs, lobbying with referees and ambushing goaltenders trying to get off the ice at the end of the period.
You can guess which was which by the game’s final score, and by Crosby humorously trying to get in the face of Zdeno Chara at the end of the second period.
After the game, Krejci was asked about Malkin and Crosby after he had overshadowed both, and his answer was revealing about the mental approaches of the Penguins and the Bruins. Pittsburgh is a collection of all-star players up and down the lineup, and Boston is a group that includes 17 holdovers from the nucleus that won the Stanley Cup two years ago.
“I think [Malkin and Crosby] are the best players in the world at this moment,” said Krejci. “There's no one like those guys. On the other hand, we don't have guys like that. We have a team. We all play as a team.”
Krejci always gets full marks for telling it exactly like it is, and that’s what he did in his postgame thoughts about a hockey team versus an all-star team. Amazingly, Hockey Night in Canada was discussing potential Conn Smythe candidates on Saturday night and ticked off Corey Crawford, Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Quick without ever mentioning the NHL’s leading playoff scorer in Krejci.
Some of that might be because the Bruins are always viewed as a team over any individual player, but it’s time for everybody to wake up and notice that Krejci is putting together one of the best Stanley Cup playoff performances seen by the NHL in a long, long time.