Haggerty: Krejci has been difference-maker since coaching change

Haggerty: Krejci has been difference-maker since coaching change

BOSTON – The first goal scored by David Krejci and the Bruins on Wednesday night revealed every bit of the story that needed to be told.

Drew Stafford threw a wide, cross-ice pass off the boards that was leading the 30-year-old center, and Krejci kicked things up into a higher skating gear to blow right past Danny DeKeyser and execute a nifty little one-on-one move on Detroit rookie goalie Jared Coreau.

It’s the kind of burst that Krejci didn’t have in the first few months of this season coming back from hip surgery and still didn’t have in December and January when it came to playing the 200-foot game that Boston needs from him in order to be successful.

“I feel good. I’ve been playing with some good players. It was tough coming back from the hip surgery. But, now I feel really good. I feel like I got my speed back, so, just keep going,” said Krejci, who looks like he could hit 20 goals in a season for the first time since the 2011-12 season. “I don’t even think I would have tried [to speed by a D-man early in the season]. Like I said, I feel good in general. I feel like I’ve got another gear, so you keep working hard. The credit goes to my linemates. I’ve been playing with some good players. So, it’s been fun.”

The compete level has been fun and fully there for the past 12 games, however, as Krejci has five goals and 12 points, along with a plus-2 rating in a dozen games with Bruce Cassidy and was the driving offensive force with a pair of goals and three points in a 6-1 spanking of the Red Wings a TD Garden.

“He was all over it [against Detroit] and he had a great game,” said David Pastrnak. “It was easy for me to follow him, and yeah, he just had a great game. Hopefully we can keep going.”

It was the first chance for new guy Stafford to play on Krejci’s left side and that combo teamed immediately for a pair of goals, but the real key to unlocking the center’s game has been teaming him with fellow Czech David Pastrnak.

Those two players have been dynamic, creative and productive together, even when 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik wasn’t able to put the puck in the net, so putting finishers on either side of Krejci caused an absolute red light explosion on Wednesday night. It’s a far cry from the lollygagging player who failed to back-check on a crucial third-period goal in a loss to Toronto - that ultimately cost Claude Julien his job in Boston - and who racked up a minus-11 rating in the first four months of the season.

“I don’t want I want to speak for the player but I would say that having [David] Pastrnak on his wing...he’s probably enjoyed that," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy. "Who wouldn’t? The kid’s a dynamic player, he comes with energy every night, and he’s great on the fore-check. I think David [Krejci] needs that one guy on his wing – someone who will get in there if we’re going to dump it in behind their D. We need to recover some of those pucks. I think Krech’s [David Krejci] strength is a transition game most of the time.

“When he’s making plays through the neutral zone or small ice plays so when we have to do it on the fore-check I think Pasta has really helped him get some pucks back. We’ve used different wingers so maybe that’s the biggest thing. It’s a chance to do what he does, but you’d have to ask him at the end of the day. We’ve allowed him to play to his strength and most nights he’s been very good. Tonight it was nice to see him score too because he’s generally pass first. He’d probably tell you he could have had four tonight. There were a couple around the net as well, so it was good for him I think he needed it.”

The bottom line for Krejci and the Bruins is this: The playmaking, the production and all-around dominance with the puck on his stick against the Red Wings has become more of the norm lately rather than the exception to the rule. The Czech-born center and big-game player looked like the vintage version of a player that led the entire playoff field in scoring in the 2011 and 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs, and though turning 31 in April, is still young enough to tap into his considerable “in his prime” abilities.

“I knew it was going to come. I was there before. The same thing happened last time [he had hip surgery]. I started feeling good – it was an Olympic year, and at the Olympics, I started feeling really good, came back and it went well,” said Krejci. “I knew it might take a little bit longer than October or November. But, I’m glad it’s here now and I can just focus on the game.”

Regardless of whether it was post-surgery recovery or feeling a bit shackled by Julien’s conservative coaching tendencies, Krejci is playing his freest and easiest level of hockey the past month. That’s a big key for the sometimes streaky Krejci and a crucial piece to Boston’s drive to the playoffs if they want to be successful. 
 

Morning Skate: Former PC coach Army on Avs' rough year

Morning Skate: Former PC coach Army on Avs' rough year

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars being released today. Amazing that the power and influence of the best movie franchise in cinematic history are just as strong today as it was four decades ago. I still remember my first time seeing it as a very little kid with my parents at the dearly departed Starlight Drive-In in North Reading.

*Good guy and recently fired Colorado Avalanche assistant coach Tim Army talks about a rough past season with the Avs, and some of the difficulties they faced in a truly terrible season. The former Providence College head coach and good hockey man shouldn’t have much trouble finding his next gig.

*A great move by the Arizona Coyotes, who have hired former Bruins forward Craig Cunningham as a pro scout after his awful medical situation last season that resulted in his leg getting amputated. Cunningham is a hard worker and a hockey lifer, and that’s exactly the kind of traits that the best scouts have in huge amounts.

*The New Jersey Devils have fired a number of employees after a rough season, including a groundbreaking radio analyst.

*With the ultra-competitive demand for an edge in NHL player development, teams are beginning to look to Europe for more and more diamonds in the rough. The Bruins tried that with Joonas Kemppainen, but it didn’t work out so well.

*One of the real big advantages of the Nashville Predators getting to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time is a national spotlight getting flashed on PK Subban, who shows off his personality in a rare ESPN interview of a hockey player featured on the network's magazine show.

*Ryan Johansen isn’t done talking smack to Ryan Kesler after the Predators prevailed over the Ducks, and it’s some delicious playoff hatred.

*Is the NHL ready to draft another goaltender with the last name DiPietro in the first round? Inquiring minds want to know, but I’d recommend the New York Islanders take a pass just in the name of avoiding a repeat of some bad history for them.

*Taylor Hall sounds pretty bitter about the whole “Edmonton Oilers getting into the playoff without him” thing, doesn’t he?

*For something completely different: As mentioned above, it’s a milestone birthday for the Star Wars franchise hitting 40 years old today. Boy, this Boston Globe movie review was right on the money back in 1977.