Krejci eager to finish what he started against Flyers

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Krejci eager to finish what he started against Flyers

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

BOSTON The memories are hazy and a little blurry when they come to David Krejci about last years playoff series against the Flyers.

He was jacked up by Mike Richards near the defensive blueline during his first shift on the ice during Game Three, and the Bs center was clearly the unwittingvictim of a Flyers Captain looking to change the momentum of the series.

It didnt work immediately as the Flyers dropped that game at home, but the absence of Krejci with a gruesomedislocated right wrist was monumental in Phillys rise and Bostons subsequent collapse duringlast year's playoff series.

The night ofthe injury was harrowing for Krejci as he dealt with a wrist that was radiating extreme pain.To make matters worse the playmaking Krejci hadto wait until after the game was finished to travel back to Baltimore with a noted hand specialist for emergency surgery. Krejci was stuck in small holding room adjacent to the Bs dressing room in the bowels of the Wells Fargo Centerwithout any televisions or other means to watch what exactlywas happening while his teammates battled through a tight playoff game.Krejci still cared through the pain and knowledge that his season was done.

The 25-year-old was done for the postseason following the injury, and stuckin a haze of post-surgery medication in the days that followed leading up to Bostons eventual collapse partially due toan absentee Krejci and an impaired Marc Savard attempting to compete with a foggy head. In essence the Bruins were just as done as Krejci at that point in the series, and they just didn't know it.

Last year obviously when Krejci went down, I felt it really created a big hole because Marc Savard hadnt played in the first round. Savard was maybe half the player he was before the concussion courtesy of Matt Cooke when he came back, said Claude Julien. So that left us with Patrice Bergeron and then as you know we had Vladimir Sobotka, we had Trent Whitfield, we had Steve Begin. So we really felt we got thin there and we didnt have the type of centermen we needed to win.

So thats where David Krejcis presence, or lack of presence, really hurt us once he went down. And we lost Sturmy Marco Sturm before too. So you lose two guys from your top two lines and our scoring was a little thin last year. It really affected our team a lot. David Krejci was having tremendous playoffs. So I think this year is a different situation, because when you look at Bergy and you look at Krejci and you look at Rich Peverley and even Chris Kelly can play there, you still have a good centermen. Gregory Campbell as well and lets not forget Tyler Seguin. So there is some depth there and we feel a lot better about that this year. Hopefully wed be able to overcome the challenges we had last year.

Krejci knows that its a new beginning for bothhe and his team against the Flyers this season, and hell be an important figure after leading the Bruins with four points in their highly successful regular season meetings against Philly. Instead Krejci is motivated to improve on the one point scored in seven playoffgames against the Montreal Canadiens while Tomas Plekanec shadowed him and the Hal GillP.K. Subban combo shut down their entire line. Obviously the Bs No. 1line will attempt to shake free and contribute, and Krejci knows much of the pressure falls on his unit to provide offense, pressure and a playmaking for everybody else.

Getting the first line topop along with riling upthe toothless power play will be taking up the Boston coaching staffs spare time above and beyond any other special playoff projects they have in mind. Krejci knows who he's playing, and it's got the fire going in his stomach even if he's not going to throw it out there publicly before the series commences.

It is what it is right now. Its a good chance for myself and the rest of the team to get back at them for last season, said Krejci. Last year was tough. Im not saying that if I didnt get hurt we would have won, but who knows, right?

We would have played in the conference final against Montreal, and I think everybody even you guys in the media would have been comfortable going against those guys. It was heartbreaking. It was tough to swallow, but this is another year. Were not going to think too much about last year. Itll nice after the season is over if we beat them and I can look back and say we took care of them.

Krejci finished the season as Bostons leading point producer and the No. 1 center between Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, but he looked far from that guy in the first round against the hated Habs. The center was certainly contributing in other ways as evidenced by the good screen on Hortons overtime game-winner in Game Seven, but the Bruins have always relied on Krejci for points rather than subtle little hockey plays on the ice.He should be ready to set screens, feather passes and finish off the plays left incomplete against Montreal, and reinforce Krejci's belief in himself that he's a No. 1 center in the NHL capable of taking his squad deep into the postseason.

Hell only get one chance to exact retribution on the team and group of Flyersplayers that ended his postseason prematurely last year, so Krejci better make this one count after showing so many flashes over the last three seasons leading up to Boston's chance at ascension.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Cassidy ‘proud, honored and privileged’ after getting Bruins' permanent gig

Cassidy ‘proud, honored and privileged’ after getting Bruins' permanent gig

BOSTON – Bruce Cassidy made just a passing mention of the 14 years in between NHL head coaching gigs, but there’s no doubt the newest head coach of the Bruins thought many times about a day just like Thursday morning. 

His general manager complimented the work he did to lead the Bruins to an 18-8-1 record after taking over after Claude Julien’s dismissal and guiding the Bruins back to the playoffs for the first time in three years.

“I think it was an important step and I think that our players, our core players in particular, some of them had tremendous seasons. Their demand to make sure our younger players sort of catch up and play the right way – we pushed the group,” said GM Don Sweeney. “I think Bruce, in particular, our staff and Bruce, they really pushed the group to get to a higher pace. I think our aggressive nature churned.

“I think something that I felt would be injected into our group right from Day One at practice because I know what his core principles are, and I think the group responded. The record speaks for itself.”

Cassidy embraced all of the defensive strengths of Julien’s existing system and tweaked things for chances to be more aggressive and creative in the offensive zone with a Black and Gold roster that clearly had more to give. 

Clearly, it came up short for Sweeney, Cassidy and the Bruins when their undermanned, injured roster fell to the Ottawa Senators in six games in the first round of the playoffs, but Thursday morning was a good day for the 51-year-old Cassidy after grinding his way back to the big leagues.

“I’ve made no secret that I grew up adoring this team and I’m very proud, honored, and privileged to be a part of it, and to be named the head coach [of the Bruins],” said Cassidy, who coached the Washington Capitals from 2002-04 and spent eight seasons coaching in Providence before joining Julien’s staff as an assistant coach this season. “To be quite honest, the core group, the veteran leadership, they gave me an opportunity to go in and earn their respect, and they bought into what we were selling for the most part…not for the most part, 100 percent.

“The veteran guys, they afforded me that opportunity and I can’t thank them enough. We’ve got some Stanley Cup champions in that room and it showed with the high character players and I was very thankful for that. From there, we’re trying to build something together now. That’s the process going forward.”

The numbers certainly didn’t lie. The offense went up in the post-Julien era and the defense actually performed better under Cassidy: The Bruins ranked first in the NHL in goals per game (3.37), first in the NHL in fewest shots allowed (741), tied for second in the NHL in wins (18), tied for second in the NHL in power-play percentage (27.8), tied for third in the NHL in goals allowed per game (2.30), tied for fifth in the NHL in face-off percentage (53.6) and tied for sixth in the NHL in takeaways (229).

Anecdotally, the Bruins also performed much more consistently on their home ice at TD Garden and pulled out of the kind of late season four-game losing tailspin that doomed the B’s in the previous two seasons under Julien. It was a challenge for Cassidy taking over midway through the season without the benefit of the training camp, but it was one that embraced and ultimately excelled at in earning the full-time gig.

“It’s hard to measure the degree of difficulty [taking over midseason]. You’re given an opportunity and it’s up to you to take advantage of it and be prepared. I’ve been a head coach before so, once you’re into that part of it, it becomes second nature. I was around since training camp, so I knew the players and some of their strengths and weaknesses, how we played, where I thought we could be better, where the players were looking for improvements after talking to them quickly in those first couple of days. So, we implemented a couple of things, and off we went,” said Cassidy. “You hope that you make the right call in those areas we talked about; right away, about being a team that would play – and the term “play fast” is getting thrown around a lot out there -- but, we were going to upgrade our transition game; how we were going to move the puck quicker and attack.

“I guess that was our description of playing fast. I think it worked. It got our D involved, so you start scoring and obviously, that helped. People get excited about that – scoring goals and getting on offense. I don’t think we lost a lot on the defensive side of things. As we went along, we tried to maintain that balance. That was the message right away. Players bought in and we had success, and that obviously helps. Winning solves a lot of problems and puts a lot of smiles on people’s faces.”

The biggest smile on a face on Thursday morning was on Cassidy, who has come full circle with life experience and a second chance to be the kind of NHL head coach he always knew he could be while working, growing and succeeding in the AHL. Now the Bruins have a president, GM and head coach all working in tandem with the same philosophies and world view when it comes to how their team should play and Cassidy gets another chance to prove how ready he is for the challenge of making good on his second NHL chance. 


 

‘No firm decision yet’ from Bjork about signing with Bruins

‘No firm decision yet’ from Bjork about signing with Bruins

BOSTON – The Bruins still hold out hope they’ll be able to sign Anders Bjork this summer as he prepares to play for Team USA at the World Championships.

Bruins GM Don Sweeney said there’s an active dialogue ongoing with the Bruins prospect’s family advisor since Bjork finished a Hobey Baker-level junior season at Notre Dame and he has yet to inform the B’s brass of a final decision. 

The 20-year-old is coming off 21 goals and 52 points for a Notre Dame team that lost in the opening rounds of the Frozen Four and clearly would be a fast-skating, offensively polished winger who could potentially be a top-six left wing candidate for David Krejci’s line.

Sweeney made it clear the ball is completely in Bjork’s court at this point, but there becomes a real danger he could follow the Jimmy Vesey route to unrestricted free agency if he heads back to college for his senior season. The B’s general manager made it clear that they would like the 5-foot-11, 183-pounder in the fold, and there are plans for him next season and beyond if he decided to sign an entry-level deal this summer.

“We’ve had discussions. We’ll continue to have discussions. He hasn’t made a firm decision, whether or not he’s leaving school. So it will be his decision,” said Sweeney. “The opportunity is there for him to join us, and we’d like him to. But again, that’s his decision to make at the right time.”

Bjork, a former fifth-round pick, has clearly elevated his NHL profile since he was drafted three years ago, and also holds strong ties to Notre Dame: His father Kirt was an All-American hockey player there and his cousin, Tampa Bay Lightning forward Erik Condra, also played for the Irish. So there might be real, genuine interest for Bjork to return to Notre Dame for personal reasons, and another chance at an NCAA title with a loaded group after falling a couple of games short this season.