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

Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

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Morning Skate: Another setback for Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while wondering what Melissa McCarthy is going to do now that Spicey is gone.

*The debut for Philadelphia Flyers top pick Nolan Patrick has been scratched due to “an infection in his face.” Boy, this kid can’t get healthy, can he?

*Detroit Red Wings coach Jeff Blashill is 100 percent sure that the Winged Wheels will be making a return to the playoffs this season.

*PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough has hope returning to the city of Houston that they might get an NHL franchise one of these days.

*Travis Yost delves into shooting percentage and some of the nuances when properly trying to break it down statistically.

*There are new season ticket charges for Habs fans in Montreal, and boy are they pissed off about it. Feels like the kind of thing that could push them to riot in the streets or flood 911 emergency lines if the Canadiens aren’t too careful about it.

*Young Blues defenseman Colton Parayko signs a five-year deal with St. Louis to avoid salary arbitration while the D-man taken exactly one pick before him by the Bruins in the draft, Matt Grzelcyk, is going to be hard-pressed to move past the AHL level this season.

*For something completely different: What would Ivan Drago have been doing with his life after his showdown with Rocky in Mother Russia?

 

 

Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

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Vaakanainen lives up to skating reputation in first camp with Bruins

Urho Vaakanainen was billed as a smooth-skating, solid defenseman when the Bruins selected him in the middle of the first round in last month’s draft.

That’s exactly what the 18-year-old D-man put on display at his first chance to participate in Bruins Development Camp earlier this month as one of the younger players taking his first paces with the B’s organization.

Vaakanainen skated with ease and smoothness and didn’t have much in the way of panic when he was breaking the puck out of the zone during workouts. To be sure, it was clear that many of the tools are there for the Finnish prospect. Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley had likened him to Hall of Famer Paul Coffey for his skating ability in the days after he was drafted last month in Chicago, and Bruins player development coordinator Jamie Langenbrunner used the equally impressive Devils player comparison of Scott Niedermayer when discussing Boston’s top pick.

The bottom line is that Vaakanainen would appear to be well-suited to an evolving hockey league where the skating game is arguably the most important quality and it’s pretty much a prerequisite for success if you’re going to be a D-man in the NHL.

“I think it’s the effortlessness that he skates with, it’s smooth," Langenbrunner said. "I think Scott [Bradley] had mentioned to me yesterday, Scott Niedermayer. That’s obviously high praise with a guy that is effortless and can skate

"[All] around the rink,” said Langenbrunner. “He seems to have a little bit of those tendencies that kind of floats on his skates a little bit. That’s something that I don’t believe you can really teach. Some guys have that and some guys, it’s a little more work.

“You’re talking about a 17-year-old kid that played in the Finnish Elite League. For him to put up huge offensive numbers, I think would be pretty tough. I think now, going into his second year there is a little more confidence. Obviously, you hear more growth. You’ll see maybe a little more of an uptick there. He’s a smooth skater. He sees the ice well, he’s got good size, and he can make plays. So, I think as the confidence grows, numbers will grow just if you’re making the right plays over and over again.”

Clearly, there is some polish still to come to Vaakanainen’s offensive game after watching him in drills with his fellow prospects at development camp. That’s reflected in the two goals and six points in 41 games for JYP in the Finnish Elite League last season as well, a level of production that caused some to question just how top-end he’ll be offensively in the NHL when he does mature into his 6-foot, 183-pound body.

Vaakanainen showed a decent, accurate shot from the point and some solid instincts when it comes to making plays with the puck, but it’s also clear he doesn’t have quite the same level of pure offensive as Charlie McAvoy. The good stick, solid defensive instincts and strength for his size were all there as advertised. The skating game will cover up a lot of the things that Vaakanainen still needs to work on.

Some of the young player’s lessons can be learned and improved with greater offensive experience afforded him when he returns to Finland for the upcoming season. Some of that may mean a modestly effective offensive player in Vaakanainen once he’s met his NHL potential. It’s simply too early to tell and a lot could be learned based on his level of improvement in Europe this season and the preview everybody will get when he plays in the World Juniors for Team Finland around the holidays.  

For his part, Vaakanainen had a great week at development camp learning the streets of Boston, meeting his fellow Bruins prospects and officially making a good first impression in his first action as a first-round pick.

“As the camp went on you felt so much better and relaxed, and I had so much fun,” said Vaakanainen, who actually stayed with Langenbrunner and his family at his house after the draft. “You’ll learn new things and you get to know all the new people that are in the Bruins organization. It’s going to help me in the future to know everybody.

“I think maybe they want to see more of my offensive game because there hasn’t been so much of that the last couple of years. The role might be bigger now and more offensive, so it’s coming. Of course, you have to work hard for that, but when you play more minutes it absolutely helps to get more comfortable with what you’re doing.”

The bottom line with this pick hasn’t really changed even as Vaakanainen showed what he could do in a week of practices at Warrior Ice Arena. The Finnish teenager is a fine D-man prospect who looks like he’ll going to enjoy a solid 10-year career once he actually cracks the NHL roster and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The one thing we’ll all see over the next few years is whether or not the Bruins could have done better for themselves with the No. 18 pick in a draft class with an admittedly shallow talent pool as compared to the past couple of seasons.