WILMINGTON – Chris Kelly admits that perhaps he wasn’t the most likely shootout choice in Thursday night’s 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues once it reached the anticlimactic individual skills competition portion of the game.
Patrice Bergeron had successfully scored to make him a perfect 2-for-2 in shootout chances this season, but both David Krejci and Jarome Iginla were unsuccessful prior to the B’s bench boss tapping Kelly.
“Were you guys as surprised as I was?” joked Kelly about being selected for the shootout based on his three goals scored in 22 games this season.
The third line center isn’t much known for his goal-scoring prowess or tricky moves around the net, and Thursday’s shootout attempt was the first of his Bruins career. Kelly did score on a nifty triple move during a penalty shot chance against the Tampa Bay Lightning on opening night, and executed a successful shootout move in a preseason win over the Washington Capitals.
That’s what gave Claude Julien the inspiration to use Kelly when Brad Marchand went 2-for-6 in the shootout last season as one of Boston’s normal shootout participants. It was still an odd choice, however, given that the B’s coach also revealed following Thursday’s game that the third line center was replaced in the face-off circle because he’s “less than 100 percent” physically.
“It was a little bit of everything. I’ve got all the stats from the shootout, but Chris scored a nice shootout goal during the preseason and the penalty shot in the first game,” said Julien. “He’s actually pretty good. But to be honest with you, I just looked at my bench and went with a gut feeling that he would put the puck where [Jaroslav] Halak’s weakness was. But he never got that chance.”
But Julien selected Kelly regardless of the data, and the reliable two-way center promptly fumbled the puck off his stick after attempting to pull off the backhand-forehand-backhand move on Jaroslav Halak.
“It worked once before, but it didn’t really have the same result,” said Kelly. “It was an opportunity to help the team and score, and it didn’t work out that time. Those things happen.”
One thing is clear: an area the Bruins really miss Tyler Seguin is on the shootout where he was 13-for-27 over the last three years as a reliable weapon in the extra session skills competition. It may be a search through the season to find the right combination that works for the Black and Gold beyond Patrice Bergeron, Jarome Iginla and David Krejci as a pretty solid first three options.