Upset Krejci knows he has work to do next season

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Upset Krejci knows he has work to do next season

David Krejci knows hes got some work to do over the summer, and that was hammered home when the Czech Republic center struggled during the playoffs.

Krejci and Milan Lucic became the poster boys for Bostons first round exit, and the 26-year-old center struggled mightily for the first time in the postseason during his NHL career.

In the previous two playoffs Krejci has 31 points in 34 games and the center led the Bruins with 12 goals during their run to the Stanley Cup, but the center uttered the words panic and frustration more than once while being held to one goal and three points in seven games against the Washington Capitals.

"You think a lot about one goal that could have made a difference. Especially when you go home and you go to sleep at night, said Krejci. Its still fresh. Its still in your head. There are so many mixed emotions going on.

I dont want to say something Ill regret, so Im going to think about it a little more and think about what I can do better. There will be a lot of work going into next season. We probably didnt play the same way that we did the season before, and we didnt get the breaks either. If I were to look at things that I could have done better, it would be to get off to a better start in the playoffs.

Krejci wouldnt elaborate on what exactly was eating at him as the playoffs concluded, but its fair to say it probably played into a season of extreme highs and lows with the Bruins.

Krejci set a new career-high in goals and signed a lucrative contract extension that will pay him more than 5 million per season, but there were also low points that balanced out the highs.

The Washington defensemen pairing of Karl Alzner and John Carlson did an effective job of bottling up the Krejci, Lucic and Tyler Seguin forward line through the playoff series. For a guy that prides himself on coming up big in the playoffs even there is some coasting during the regular season, the magic didnt happen for Krejci or the Bruins.

Missing Nathan Horton in the playoffs clearly had something to do with the lines overall struggles, but it was more than that.

There wasnt enough finish when Krejci had the puck around the net, and he wasnt paying the price in front of Braden Holtby nearly enough. Perhaps it should have been a sign it wasnt going to be Krejcis year when the 120-pound piece of plexi-glass fell on his head after Boston took Game 1 at TD Garden.

My regular season was good. The playoffs were tough for a lot of us. We couldnt break them. They played good defense and they had a goaltender that wed never seen before, said Krejci. Its too soon to tell what went wrong and what I could do better.

There are so many people that just sit on their couch and they would be way better players if they actually played the game. Its not that easy. Thats why we dont read that many papers or listen to many comments about what other people have to say. We know we want to win. We try to do everything we can. Sometimes we didnt have the legs. Sometimes we couldnt put the puck in the net. But we always tried our best. Thats all we had this year, I guess.

It probably wasnt a shock coming off a regular season where Krejci was a minus player for the first time since his rookie NHL season, and spent time centering the third line for the first time in his career. He did set a career-high with 23 goals scored and topped 60 points for the third time in the last four years, but once again couldnt do enough to turn around a Bruins power play thats turned into a team weakness.

But Krejci also acknowledged that he needs to win back the confidence of the coaching staff after a regular season that had a few too many pot holes along the way.

For a guy that led the NHL with a plus-37 just three seasons ago, Krejci is a long way away from that player now.

I hadnt been a minus player since my first year in the league. I want to get back the confidence of the coaches to put me into key situations, said Krejci. When you are in the minus the coaches will overlook you to go out there and take a big face-off. I know Bergeron is our go-to guy all the time.

If its not him then there are two other forwards too, you know? I remember I used to be one of those forwards last year, so I definitely want that back. It basically starts with the plusminus this year. I dont want to just be a plus player, but I want to be in double-digits next year.

Beyond that Krejci was keeping to himself what needs to be done for his overall game heading into next season. Theres little doubt he wants to get back to the cerebral, play-making center that paid close attention to defensive detail, and appeared to be on the fast track to becoming the teams No. 1 center for the next 10 years.

But No. 46 was keeping things close to the vest before he left for Europe and a place on the Czech Republics National Team taking part in the World Championships.

I know what I should do and I know what I think happened this year. There are some things I dont want to comment on that Im not really happy about, said Krejci. I dont want to say something I regret. Im still a little upset about some stuff that happened. I dont want to comment and get in trouble or anything.

Perhaps a few hurt feelings for Krejci might be the best thing to light his fire heading into a show-it-to-me season with the Bruins next year.

Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

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Bruins bouncing between left wings Schaller and Spooner on Krejci line

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It certainly doesn’t feel like it will go on forever this way for the Bruins, but at this point it’s essentially a case of musical left wings on the David Krejci line as it’s been for much of this season. 

Ryan Spooner has spent the majority of the season adjusting to playing the wing with Krejci, and has been just okay trying to play away from his natural center spot while using his speed and playmaking on the wing. But the speedy Spooner also spent his share of time lately on the fourth line after getting off to a slow offensive start this season with three goals and eight points along with a minus-1 rating in 23 games. 

The bouncing between the second and fourth line has undoubtedly been frustrating for the 24-year-old getting pushed off his natural position after posting 49 points in his first full year as a third line center. But Spooner has continued to toe the company line, work on keeping his confidence high for a productive offensive season and do what he needs to in an effort to get off a fourth line.

That’s opened the door for hard-nosed former Providence College standout Tim Schaller to get some top-6 forward time on the Krejci line as well, but he’s just posted a single assist in the last three games while working hard to keep up offensively with David Krejci and David Backes. The 6-foot-2, 219-pound Schaller has the grittiness to do the dirty work for that line in the corners and in front of the net, and he can certainly skate well enough for a big, energy forward. 

“To think this was going to happen, I would say ‘no’,” said Schaller when asked if he could have predicted at the start of the season that he’d be getting a look from the B’s in a top-6 role. “I’ve been able to play with whoever and whenever my whole career. I wouldn’t want to say it’s one of those things that I had expected, but I’m always ready for it. 

“We’ve been working pretty well together. I don’t know that we’ve had too many great [offensive] opportunities to capitalize on, but Backes and Krejci are good enough players that they’ll come. They’re good enough to bury on those chances, so the goals will come. I’m always going to play the same way no matter who I’m with. Those guys might have the puck on their sticks a little longer than other linemates of mine, but that will just create more space and opportunities.”

So Spooner and Schaller bring different strengths and weaknesses to the table as the B’s coaching staff searches for the right fit alongside Krejci and Backes, and Julien sounds like a coach that’s going to keep swinging back and forth between the two players. He certainly did that with Spooner during the third period in Philly, which led to an immediate goal for Krejci in the third period comeback, and toward the end of the Carolina win with the B's desperate for offense. 

Julien also didn’t rule out Matt Beleskey getting another look there as well with the Bruins having a tough time finding anybody to consistently fill Loui Eriksson’s role from last season.

“At times I don’t think that offense has been producing much because maybe it’s lacking a little bit of speed at that time, so you put Spooner back up there. But sometimes you feel like that line isn’t winning enough battles or spending enough time in the offensive zone, so you put Schaller back in there because he’s going to play a little grittier. So we’re looking there,” said Julien. “We’d love to be able to find somebody to be a consistent player there. We’ve had Matt Beleskey there and that line never really did anything. 

“[Beleskey] has been much better on the [third] line and he’s been getting more chances, so I’ve been trying to put the best scenario together, I guess. Sometimes it’s the situation and sometimes it’s the matchup [against the other team] as well. So there are different reasons for that. I’ve just got to make it work. If it’s working with [Schaller] on that night then you stick with it, and if you don’t think you’re getting enough then you move [Spooner] there and see if you can a little spark with some speed. It doesn’t mean Beleskey won’t go back there. That’s what we have right now.”

So it’s clear Julien, and the B’s coaching staff, have simply tried to find something that will work on a consistent basis with a couple of key offensive players on Boston’s second most important forward line. The one wild card in all of this: the impending return of Frank Vatrano, who has been skating for nearly two weeks as he works toward a return from foot surgery.

Vatrano was initially penciled in as the left winger alongside Krejci to start NHL camp this fall, and the Bruins were hoping he was going to build on the eight goals he scored in Boston last season in a limited role.

Vatrano could be ready to play within the next couple of weeks, and should be back in the B’s lineup prior to the early January timetable originally offered at the time of his surgery. So perhaps the 22-year-old Vatrano can end this season-long carousel of Bruins left wingers getting paraded on and off the Krejci line, and finally give the B’s greater options at left wing. 

But the Czech playmaking center could use some stability also as he looks to find the highest level of his game in a challenging year for the Black and Gold, and do it while the Bruins find the right kind of talent to skate alongside him. 

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

Blidh plans to bring some energy to Bruins after call-up

BRIGHTON, Mass. – Anton Blidh plans on keeping things pretty straightforward on his first call-up to the NHL. 

The former sixth-round pick of the Bruins has earned his stripes at the AHL level with Providence over the last couple of seasons, and comes to Boston as a gritty, energy forward capable of stirring things up in otherwise sleepy games. There’s also a bit of offensive upside for a fourth line-type player with five goals and nine points with 22 penalty minutes and a plus-eight rating in 19 games for the P-Bruins this season. 

It remains to be seen if the Blidh call-up means that the Bruins intend to scratch a player or that somebody is questionable for Saturday afternoon’s game in Buffalo, but Patrice Bergeron did miss Friday’s practice without any real defined reason for his absence. The 21-year-old Swede said he plans to play to his strengths if he gets into the lineup for the Black and Gold, and that could mean getting under the skin of his Sabres opponents. 

“It’s my first time called up, so I’m happy,” said Blidh, who was asked what he'll bring if he gets into the lineup. “I’ll just play simple and play my own game: be hard on the puck and play with some energy. I worked hard [in Providence] and then I got some confidence. I’m not a goal-scorer, but I scored a couple of goals and got some confidence.”

Claude Julien hasn’t been able to catch up Blidh’s work since the season got started, but was pleased by the youngster’s progress in training camp, where he earned notice for his feisty, physical play on a line with Noel Acciari. 

“They said he’s playing well, so they brought him up. We’ll get to see him, hopefully tomorrow,” said Julien. “I didn’t hear a ton of fine details aside from him being a guy that was certainly playing with a lot of energy. I didn’t mind him in training camp either. He works really hard and competes hard, and we could use that.”

That would certainly be the case after watching the Bruins go through the motions for long stretches Thursday night against Carolina before essentially stealing a game that they didn’t deserve to win.