Krejci's dominance started in modest beginnings

Krejci's dominance started in modest beginnings
May 18, 2013, 11:30 am
Share This Post

BOSTON – It all started as a passion for hockey for Boston Bruins center David Krejci while growing up in a small town, hours away from the big cities in his native Czech Republic.

The young center was part of a hockey crazy group of kids all living in an apartment building complex in Sternberk that would hold daily street hockey games that ran during the daylight hours, similar to the neighborhood pick-up basketball games, or street hockey games, that you see all across the United States.

That is, when kids aren’t playing Call of Duty or something else on their video game system while planted in front of a television set.  

“I remember when I was young: after school and after practice, I’d be home by 2 or 3 p.m. playing street hockey with a tennis ball. It wasn’t just me, it was everybody. It was one thing to go there because you had to, but I’d go there and guys would already be playing 5-on-5 on the basketball courts. So I’d have to go there and wait until somebody lost, or somebody went home,” said Krejci, who could have easily been describing the origins of so many kids growing up as hockey worshiping youngsters in the US and Canada during the Gretzky/Lemieux/Jagr era. “It was a stick and a tennis ball. Now there’s Xbox and so many video games. They might practice one hour a day, and they don’t even practice every day. Then they go home and play ‘Call of Duty’…me too these days.

“I’m sure I picked up a lot of the moves I use today, and a lot of the skill from those days playing street hockey. I was living in an apartment building that was all connected, so the people that wanted to play would go to those basketball courts. They would all play. All of the time, it was so busy. Many times so many kids would show up that we wouldn’t just play 5-on-5, we would have tournaments with five or six teams. I had a Colorado jersey with no name on it that I would wear, and other guys had Jagr jerseys on when they were playing. We made our own little Cup that we would play for in the tournaments. It was cool, you know?”

It’s good to see things are exactly the same these days in the Czech Republic as they are in North America. But people around the Bruins are certainly glad that Krejci grew up in a different era when kids still spent most of their days outside and away from a laptop screen.

It wasn’t just cool, though.

It also made Krejci the one of the playoff performers in the NHL that he is today, a big game player that leads all NHL players with 14 points (5 goals, 9 assists) in this spring’s Stanley Cup playoffs after leading the postseason field with 12 goals and 23 points during Boston’s Cup run two years ago.

Amazingly, Krejci has 25 goals and 36 points for 61 points along with a plus-28 in 67 career playoff games over the last six seasons while proving he can elevate his playmaking and goal-scoring abilities to a special, rarified level when the moment is most important. It’s no stretch to say that Krejci is a clear difference-maker when it comes to winning and losing playoff series, and he proved it by carrying the Bruins in the first round along with linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton.

"Getting the chance to re-watch it, [I] remembered some of the key moments and big plays along the way," said Milan Lucic, who said he re-watched the entire Stanley Cup run for the first time during the NHL lockout, revealing one of the biggest takeaways was how clutch and dominant Krejci was, "[Seeing] the way [Krejci] was able to step up his game, he kind of lifted the team to the Stanley Cup Finals. Especially during those series against the Flyers and Tampa Bay, he scored so many big goals that lifted us to victory.

“[Krejci] has got good confidence, he’s got a really good skill set and he’s showing it in this series. He might be underrated to you guys, but he’s not underrated to people in this dressing room.”

The only time the 27-year-old has struggled during the playoffs?

That would be last season when a giant pane of plexi-glass crashed on top of his head at the conclusion of Game 1 of the first round against the Washington Capitals, and it was pretty clear Krejci wasn’t the same player for the rest of the series. He finished with just a goal and three points in the seven game series, and the Bruins struggled to scrap for offensive without their postseason playmaker.

That’s far from the case this time around with 14 points in eight games, and no sign that any of it slowing down. Krejci had an assist in Boston’s solid 3-2 overtime win against the Rangers on Thursday night, but was dissatisfied with the additional energy his line had after the game.

The way Krejci explained, he still had plays running through his mind postgame that he wanted to make out on the ice during the game. He never got the chance and was looking for another crack at the Blueshirts on Sunday afternoon.

“We thought [Game 1] was a good win, but we talked about it as a line. Especially with [Milan] Lucic and [Nathan] Horton, we still had some energy left after the game was over,” admitted Krejci. “That means we could have done a little bit more offensively. But now is the time to regroup. We have to better, and we will be better on Sunday.”

That’s got to be a scary thought for the Rangers. Krejci hasn’t dusted off all of the moves perfect out on the basketball courts of his Czech Republic youth during marathon street hockey sessions, and he’s got plenty planned for the Broadway Blueshirts when the series continues this weekend.

History is on Krejci’s side that the points will start piling up for the Black and Gold with the stakes raised in the playoff’s second round, and the Czech Republic center simply dusting off the moves created on the street hockey courts of his youth.