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.