Krejci being Krejci again makes all the difference


Krejci being Krejci again makes all the difference

Milan Lucic remembers the conversation clearly.

The Bruins power forward was joking around with his center, David Krejci, on the post-Christmas flight to Phoenix for their game against the Coyotes, and gave his Czech center the signal it was time to start winding things up.

I was kind of joking with Krejci after the Christmas holiday that our break was over and it was time to get things going, said a grinning Lucic. Hes definitely responded to the little joke I said to him and Krejci has definitely got some confidence back in his game.

I think a big thing with him is . . . pushing the pace. He is definitely capable of controlling the play. Hes able to make plays and move it around at his pace, and when hes doing that he can play at a very high level and bring Nathan Horton and I there along with him.

Krejci had actually already put his game back into motion a few games before the holiday break, and was slowly erasing a sluggish first three months of the season at the controls of the line between Lucic and Horton. His struggles may have been related to his contract situation, which wasn't settled until after the season started, or it may have just been the traditional dry spell that Krejci endures each year, but the 25-year-old pivot is back on his game.

He set up a pair of goals in Tuesday nights win over the Winnipeg Jets including the game-tying score on a nifty assist that opened things up for Horton in front of the net and has quietly put together a nine-game point streak.

Krejci has 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in those nine games while also serving as the head foreman in offensive revivals for Lucic and Horton. Lucic has been the most consistent of the three players this year, but he admitted that all three knew they could be better.

We all got off to a pretty slow start, but we got things going and I think everybody found their game, said Lucic. Its about focusing on the next game and the next shift, and its allowed me to get more consistent.

Or its about David being David, as his coach so eloquently explained. When Krejci is playing within his abilities -- faceoff skills, passing abilities and an underrated shot that has him on pace for 20-plus goals -- he seems like a natural-born top-line centr.

Thats just David being David, said coach Claude Julien. I think when he skates and just plays with some good intensity, and hes strong on the puck, thats what David ends up doing. Hes getting rewarded with some good points and some good plays. When hes not, youre going to see him a little lighter on the puck.

Youre going to see him standing still a little bit more, looking to make plays instead of creating them with his speed and his hockey sense.

Its been a no-standing zone while Krejci has built up a plus-6 during those nine games and also only been a minus player once since jump-starting the first line as a trio.

It came at exactly the right time, with Brad Marchand out for five games due to his suspension for a clip of Sami Salo and the Bruins hoping to avoid any kind of offensive letdown in the next handful of games.

So far its clicking, said Krejci. My line and me, we are trying to keep our feet moving. Every time we get a puck, we are crashing the net, and making the most of our chances. The puck has been going in the net for us. Hopefully we will keep doing the good things and scoring goals.

Marshy is going to be out for four more games so hopefully that line is going to keep clicking and putting the puck in the net. We have good depth. All four lines, even the fourth line can put the puck in the net so thats the strength of our team and thats why were winning because all four lines can score a goal.

Hes also been on fire out of the faceoff circle, where hes dominated since a poor game on the draw in a losing effort to a young player on New Years Eve. Krejcis faceoff performance is vital given his lines personnel and personality, and the express preference to be playing with the puck rather than chasing it down.

So its a sign of great things to come when Krejci wins his first 10 faceoff draws of the game, and the 10th win in the circle immediately leads to a Horton goal to reverse the games momentum. Its the exact kind of hockey play the smooth-skating playmaker can execute on the ice when things slow down while hes carrying the puck in the offensive zone.

Or maybe its just David being David and this offensive explosion was just sitting there waiting to happen all along.

Rex Ryan ready to be done seeing Tom Brady: 'Maybe that dude will retire...'


Rex Ryan ready to be done seeing Tom Brady: 'Maybe that dude will retire...'

FOXBORO -- Rex Ryan says he was just kidding. He didn't really mean it when he said he had a "mole" at Gillette Stadium telling him which Patriots quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett, would play in Week 4. 

This week he doesn't need a network of spies to tell him who to prepare for. 

"My sources tell me Brady will be the quarterback," Ryan joked on a conference call Wednesday. 

Brady and Ryan have met 15 times dating back to the start of Ryan's head coaching career in 2009 with the Jets. Their matchups date back even further when factoring in Ryan's years as a defensive assistant and then defensive coordinator in Baltimore. 

But after three games this season, three games in which Brady has completed 75 percent of his passes for 1,004 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions, Ryan said it's hard to imagine a time when the Future Hall of Famer has looked more at ease. 

"Well, I mean, it’s almost like, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him better . . . I mean he he’s played in the league for 17 years, 18 years, something like that," Ryan said. "You know, obviously, he puts the work in and everything else and it’s just a real credit to him. 

"Like I keep thinking if I stay in this conference long enough, that maybe that dude will retire but I don’t see that happening anytime soon."

The respect is mutual. While Brady has the edge in the win-loss column, he clearly appreciates what Ryan's teams are able to do on the defensive side of the ball. 

They can be an annoyance in the way they deviate from what they've shown on film. 

"I think there’s an element of what you prepare for, you may not get many of those things," Brady said Wednesday. "We’ve played him sometimes when he’s been blitzing a lot, and he doesn’t blitz as much at all. Then he hasn’t been blitzing much at all and then he blitzes us at all. 

"I think you just have to be prepared for everything, which is a bit of a challenge because there’s only so much time in the week that you have to prepare. You’ve got to try to nail down what you think you’re going to get, then practice it and be able to adjust if need be when you get out there."

The philosophy behind Ryan's plan for Brady and the Patriots is a simple one, even if it results in complex pressures and coverage schemes. 

"He’s too good," Ryan said. "If he could just sit back and without challenging him, you know, it’s tough enough when you present something he hadn’t seen, but it’s damn near impossible when he hasn’t seen it."

Benefitting Brady in those types of what-the-hell-are-we-looking-at scenarios is that over the course of his 16 years as a starter, he's seen just about everything. And offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has been by his side for just about all of it. Together they are often able to delve into their memory banks and pull out a game plan from their shared past, scrap the week of practice and preparation they'd just gone through, and roll with something different. 

If you're Ryan, you hope you can keep Brady guessing for 60 minutes. At the very least, you hope you can buy your team some time before he figures things out -- because odds are he will. 

"Same guy like he always is," Ryan said. 

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but . . . can I have your jersey?

Roethlisberger to Brady: I've never done this before but . . . can I have your jersey?

Tom Brady has fans everywhere, apparently. Even in Pittsburgh. Even on the Steelers roster. 

Showtime's Inside the NFL caught video of Brady meeting with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger before Sunday's game between New England and Pittsburgh. 

The pair hugged near the 50-yard line at Heinz Field. Brady called Roethlisberger "big guy." Roethlisberger, who was out with a knee injury, told Brady he wanted to play "so bad."


Then Roethlisberger became a fan. And like many of them, he had a request. 

"Um, hey, listen," he said. "I've never done this before, but I would love to get a jersey at some point. It'd mean...There's not many I want to put in my office. You're the best, dude."

Brady was happy to oblige. Just not right at that moment. 

"Sure, I'd love to," Brady said. "I'll get you after the game."