Krejci set to sqaure off with childhood idol Jagr


Krejci set to sqaure off with childhood idol Jagr

By Joe Haggerty Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
David Krejci idolized Jaromir Jagr and probably even had his own mini-Jagr mullet growing up on the Czech Republic. The Bs center has played with Jagr on Czech National teams in the Olympics and suited up against the legendary scorer in past NHL games against the New York Rangers.

So there is a healthy respect for the legend from his home country and a player that gets people back home talking about NHL hockey again as the KHL further encroaches into the European conversation.

But Krejci wont be posing for pictures or looking for small talk tonight when the Bruins open up against the Flyers and the playmaking pivot gets his first look at Jagr in a Philadelphia uniform. Its all about business for Krejci, and Jagr -- the Czech hockey poster boy -- is the enemy.

Obviously I want to get a win tomorrow and hopefully he isnt going to have a good game," Krejci said. "I like him as a player and I like him as a person and I wish him the best. But on the other hand itll be the first game for both of us, and Im going to try to make it really hard on him. Ill do everything I can to make it miserable for him if Im out on the ice against him.

Youve just got to play him physical and not let him get any speed going with that big body because it can get hard to slow him down. Im sure hell see plenty of Chara because 'Z' is always out there against him in the past. Hes 39 or 40, but hes still a very good player at this point.

Jagr is in fact 39 years old, and can still put on a show as he did during the Olympics and this spring during the World Championships. The Flyers are banking on his natural scoring touch coming through on the power play especially, and that will be good for Philadelphia. Krejci is banking on Jagrs return to the NHL changing the focus on the game of hockey back in his homeland.

Despite Krejcis status as a rising star and Stanley Cup champion, Jagr is still the biggest hockey deal going in the Czech Republic. So his move back to North America and the NHL should have some positive ramifications.

For Czech hockey its a good thing. We didnt have as big a name as Jagr when he was gone. People were talking about the NHL and the KHL at the same time in the Czech Republic, but now all of the focus will go back on the NHL, said Krejci. Kids will have the NHL as their No. 1 main goal from the time they start skating, and that will help the Czech hockey team. Its good for the NHL too.

What remains to be seen is whether its good for the Philadelphia Flyers, and Krejci aims to help avoid that Jagr Philly goodness for at least one game.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Capitals acquire defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from Blues

Capitals acquire defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk from Blues

WASHINGTON - The Washington Capitals have acquired defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk in a trade with the St. Louis Blues.

Washington sent a 2017 first-round pick, conditional 2018 second-round pick, forward Zach Sanford and minor leaguer Brad Malone to St. Louis in the deal that also sent former Capitals goaltending prospect Pheonix Copley to the Blues.

The teams announced the deal Monday night.

Shattenkirk, 28, is set to be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has 42 points on 11 goals and 31 assists this season and has 66 goals and 218 assists in 471 NHL games

He counts $4.25 million against the salary cap this season. The Blues retained 39 percent of his salary.

Shattenkirk is a right-handed-shooting defenseman who adds more depth and offense to the Capitals' blue line.

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

Haggerty: Mark it down -- the Bruins WILL make the playoffs

The Bruins are going to snap their two-year drought and get into the Stanley Cup playoffs this spring. 

Sure, it’s going to be a tight race. And it'll come down to the last few games, befitting a team that's lived on the Atlantic Division bubble over the last three years. But in the seven games under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, the Bruins have shown they have the goods to get into the postseason. There's every reason to believe they’ll sustain their winning ways over the final two months of the regular season. 

There's a long way to go, of course, but a third-place (or higher) finish would ensure the B's a berth in the Atlantic Division playoff bracket, and they could conceivably advance a round or two based solely on the poor quality of clubs in their division. With 20 games to play, the Bruins are now third in the division and have a one-point cushion (70-69) over fourth-place Toronto, though the Leafs have a game in hand. If Toronto passes them, they currently have a two-point lead over the Islanders (70-68) for the eighth and final spot in the conference playoffs, though the Isles also have a game in hand. 

And that's not to say Boston couldn't climb higher. The B's are only four points behind the first-place but spinning-their-wheels Canadiens (20-20-7 since their 13-1-1 start), and they're even with the Habs in games played. They trail second-place Ottawa by two points, but the Senators have two games in hand.

All that, however, is another story for another day (even if it is a reason for Boston adding, rather than subtracting, at Wednesday's NHL trade deadline),

So how can we so stridently state that the Bruins are going to make the playoffs, and assure that this seven-game run isn’t just a flash in the pan?

Clearly they're playing with more urgency, higher compete levels, and a consistent focus that wasn’t there in the first 55 games under Claude Julien. They've now scored first-period goals in nine straight games and scored first in each of the four games on the highly successful Western swing through San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim and Dallas over the last week. 

To put that in perspective, the B's had gone 1-8 in California over the previous three seasons, when those late-in-the-year road trips spelled the beginning of the end for Boston.

But even more convincing is a simple look at the numbers, the production and the reasons behind the surge forward. 

The Bruins have long needed their two franchise centers operating at a high level at both ends of the ice, and consistently playing the 200-foot game that can cause major problems against teams not blessed with frontline talent in the middle. That wasn’t the case under Julien this year, but things have changed. 

David Krejci has three goals and eight points along with an even plus/minus rating in seven games under Cassidy. Patrice Bergeron posted three goals and nine points along with a plus-7 over that same span of games. With those two big-money, big-ceiling players operating at their highest levels, the rest of the team has shown its true potential . . . and the talent level is considerably higher than many thought.

It wasn’t long ago that many Bruins fans, and some major Julien apologists in the media, would have had you believe that Claude was keeping together a substandard NHL roster with a MacGyver-like combination of duct tape, chewing gum and an offensive system that only a dump-and-chase, trappist wonk could love. Now we’re seeing there's offensive talent on a group that’s been given the green light to create and produce. 

To wit, the Bruins' third line is now winning games for them after serving as a liability for the first half of the season. Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes and Frank Vatrano have combined for 6 goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in the seven games under Cassidy after never getting a chance to work together under Julien because they weren’t in his defensive circle of trust.

There's also the elevated level of production -- across the board -- from Boston’s defensemen. Not to mention Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak continuing to produce offense at elite levels. Marchand just set a career-high with his 64th point on Sunday afternoon, and still has another 20 games left in attempting to become the B's first point-per-game player since Marc Savard (88 points in 82 games in  2008-09).

All of it amounts to a Bruins offense that’s now choosing quality shots over quantity: Boston is scoring 1.5 more goals per game under Cassidy while averaging a significant 4.5 fewer shots per game. The Bruins have finally ditched the weak perimeter attack that so entralled the Corsi crowd -- it was putting up 40-plus shots per game, yet only about 2.5 goals -- and are instead honing in their offensive chances between the dots and in closer to the net .

Should people still be wondering if this current B’s run of entertaining, winning hockey is sustainable? They certainly can if they want to wait until the season is over to decide, but the jury is in for this humble hockey writer.

Bruins fans should take the cue and start lining up for their postseason tickets. 

Because there is going to be playoff hockey in Boston this spring. Remember, you heard it here first.