Notes: Krejci continues his stellar play


Notes: Krejci continues his stellar play

By Joe Haggerty

TAMPA, Fla. Dont look now, but David Krejci is blossoming into something special during Bostons run through the playoffs.

Its true that things got a little scary in the first period when Krejci got a bit of a buddy pass from Dennis Seidenberg and was knocked for a loop by a hard-charging Marc-Andre Bergeron fresh off the Tampa Bay bench. That came after Krejci had already scored Bostons first goal of the game directly in front of the Lightning net, and perhaps he was paying the physicalprice for his offensive diligence.

The big hockeyhit got Krejci directly in the chest before the Tampa Bay defenseman finished off the check by extending the elbow toward the center's head, andthe impactdropped the creative center to one knee for extended seconds. But he was simply trying to catch his breath and perhaps stifle his laughter as he watched Lightning coach Guy Boucher lose his mind once an elbowing penalty was assessed to Bergeron on the play.

Krejci stayed on the bench for the rest of the period,collected himself in the dressing room between the first and second, and thendidnt miss a shift the rest of the way after putting a good scare into everybody.

I looked and I saw one defenseman on the second blue line, like they always have, said Krejci. I started thinking about what I was going to do when I get over the line and getting ready, and then I heard guys on the bench yelling Heads up!'

Seids said he was sorry for making the pass because then he saw the guy jump off the bench. Maybe the league will look at the video, but Im fine so it doesnt really matter. I stayed on the ice. I told assistant coach Geoff Ward that I just needed to catch my breath for a few minutes and Id be okay.

Its a good thing Krejci is fine because hes been an unstoppable offensive force since the end of the seven-game series against Montreal. The Czech Republic playmaker has 11 points (6 goals, 5 assists) in his last seven games, and has the confidence flowing at high levels as evidenced by the patience to pull off double moves on his first goal.

Add in winning 13 out of 18 faceoffs, and that finished offa pretty complete two-wayeffort.

The pivotal play in the game arrived just 69 seconds in, as Milan Lucic controlled the puck in the corner and watched in a mixture of amusement and aweas both Brett Clark and Victor Hedman converged on him away from the net.

With two players already on Nathan Horton and the fifth Lightning skater guarding a seam against one of Bostons defenseman, Lucic simply spotted Krejcis stick all alone in front of the net and flipped a pass into the area. Krejci collected the puck and faked forehand to get Dwayne Roloson sprawling forward, and then patientlyswitched to his backhand to score his seventh goal of the playoffs.

I was looking for Horton in the slot and he had two guys on him, said Lucic. I had two guys running at me and I saw a stick in front of the net. So I said All right, Ive got Krejci in front of the net.' I just made the play, and he did an even better job of making the play and finishing things off. It felt like 5-10 seconds before Krejci shot but he obviously did what he needed to do.

That first goal is huge in any game.

It was the fourth game-winning goal for Krejci during his current playoff run, tying Cam Neelys 1991 franchise record for game-winning goals in a playoff series.

Tim Thomas recorded his second career postseason shutout with a 31-save effort in a solid bounceback less-than-stellar performances in Games 1 and 2.

His one-two combination of stops on a spinning Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcellin the first period set the tone for the entire game.

It was kind of a product of the way the game goes in front of me, said Thomas. I was able to play more under control tonight. A lot of that has to do with the way we played the way Im used to. I felt comfortable in a game like that.

Zdeno Chara seemed to be battling a cold or illness of some kind postgame, but gritted his way to 28:27 of ice time, good for second-most on the Bruins. It was behind only Dennis Seidenberg, who clocked in at 28:30.

Patrice Bergeron returned to the lineup and played 19-plus minutes, logged time on the penalty kill and power play, and was his usual versatile, valuable self when it came to helping in every area of Bostons game plan. The 25-year-old finally spoke after the game and said that hes been feeling better for more than a week, a sign of how his body now reacts to a mild concussion.

There were no complications, no scary symptoms and really no evidence of the past head injuries for Bergeron, and he jumped right into the physical fray for Boston without worrying about possible consequences.

I felt pretty good out there, said Bergeron. I was pretty glad to be back to help the team. I didnt know which game Id return. It was a matter of taking it one day at a time after it felt good for the past week.

I decided I was ready to go and I had some practices this week. I didnt want to put pressure on myself. When I do that Im just making things worse.

Tomas Kaberle had three blocked shots for the Bruins a number that led the Bs team and none were bigger than his smothering of a Simon Gagne shot late in the third period when Thomas had vacated the net briefly dealing with the action around the cage. While the power play continued to struggle for the Bruins in Game Three, the Bruins coaching staff might be onto something with Kaberle and Tyler Seguin working together on one of the units. Some of the best puck movement in the playoffs arrived when the two offensive minded players were working between the half-wall and the point.

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

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

When the hockey world grew tired of shootouts, the league took something of a half measure. Rather than eliminate the shootout, the league moved overtime from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3. It worked; games that were tied at the end of regulation were more likely to end in the five-minute OT period than before, thus reducing the frequency of shootouts. 

Now, the NHL is dealing with its latest cumbersome gameplay issue: the offsides challenge. A half-measure isn’t as desirable in this case. No more half measures, Walter. 

The offsides challenge was introduced with good intentions, but it’s simply too easy to abuse. And really, when the option is there with only a timeout at risk, why wouldn’t a coach roll the dice that maybe a guy was offsides entering the zone 29 seconds before the goal was scored? 

The option needs to be taken away. Rely on blueline cameras and automatically look at anything close on a goal that’s scored off the rush. It would take two seconds and would save the refs from another Matt Duchene incident while saving the viewer a lot of time. Let anything else go the way of the dry scrape. 

There’s the temptation to instead tweak -- maybe make offsides challengeable if the entry in question occurs within however many seconds -- but that would just mean more time would be wasted seeing if a play was even challengeable. 

It was proposed at the GM meetings in Chicago that if a coach loses an offsides challenge, his team will be assessed a two-minute penalty. That sounds great as a deterrent, but it won’t stop instances of the needless why-the-hell-not challenge. Late in games, coaches might be just as likely to take their chances in a tie game or a one-goal game. That goal allowed could likely be the deciding tally, so if they’re likely to lose anyway, some coaches might still go for the time-wasting Hail Mary. 

And of course, the loser there is the person hoping to catch their train out of North Station in time, or the person who might doze off during the stupid challenge, wake up four hours later on their couch and develop back issues over time. That was a friend, not me. 

Colin Campbell said at the GM meetings in Chicago ahead of the draft that the league is trying to "temper" the negative reaction the offside challenge has received from players and fans. 

There’s really only way to do that, and that’s to get rid of it.

See you in a year when we’re going through the same thing with goalie interference. 

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

Haggerty: Bruins need more than draft-weekend output if they want improvement

CHICAGO – With the 2017 NHL Draft officially wrapped up and the proverbial eve of NHL free agency upon us, there wasn’t anything to get particularly alarmed or excited about when it comes to the Bruins actions over the last few days.

The Bruins lost a potential-filled defenseman that might never actually realize any of it in Colin Miller, and they followed up the expansion draft subtraction with an average draft class where they addressed defense, goaltending and their depth up front. But at the same time, it didn’t really feel like the Bruins got anybody in the draft that they were particularly bowled over by, and the B’s lost a potential trade chip once they’d used their 18th overall pick in the first round to select smooth-skating defenseman Urho Vaakenainen.

MORE: NHL shouldn't overthink offsides challenges any longer; they should just get rid of them

The sense at this address, though not confirmed by anybody inside either organization, is that the Bruins weren’t willing to trade a first-round pick as part of a package for Wild defenseman Marco Scandella, and would have preferred Jonas Brodin if they were going to give up that kind of asset. Don Sweeney confirmed that Boston’s first-round pick was in play, but stressed it was for “target specific” players that the Bruins coveted.

A deal was never worked out for one of those “target specific” players, so the Bruins continue to move on and hope that something breaks over the next few weeks.

“I was on record saying we’d be offering our first-round pick for target-specific players, and we did do that,” said Sweeney. “I don’t blame teams for not necessarily wanting to do it, so we went ahead with our own pick. I was target specific on a few players and there were other considerations being discussed.

“It’s an area we’d like to address and help our team currently. I’m not going to stop exploring areas where we can improve our club. It’s hard to tell [which way trade talks will go]. Maybe people will feel that picks from next year’s draft will be even better, or they like that pool of prospects a little bit better. It’s hard to tell [where trade discussions will go], to be perfectly honest.”

At least the Bruins were right on time with picking a Finnish player in the first round as a record six players from Finland were nabbed in the first round of the draft, and one would hope that means all will benefit from the hockey talent streaming out of that Scandinavian country right now. It will take years to determine how Vaakenainen, Jack Studnicka, Jeremy Swayman and the other members of the 2017 draft class ultimately pan out, but it sure doesn’t feel like the same outpouring of talent as in 2015 when Brandon Carlo, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson, Jake DeBrusk and the rest of the Bruins draft picks officially entered the Black and Gold system.

B’s assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted as much when discussing the entire draft class on Saturday afternoon at the United Center, home of the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins got good value, addressed organizational needs and felt good about the players they picked in each and every spot, but there isn’t going to be a Charlie McAvoy or David Pastrnak coming out of a really “meh” group of draft-eligible hockey players.

“Our first rounder is somebody we’re excited about. His skating is close to what we call a ‘5’ in our system. He’s a left-shot. You compare his skating to [Paul] Coffey at times, really mobile and transition defenseman,” said Bradley, who hadn’t run a draft board for the Bruins in roughly ten years while Wayne Smith and Keith Gretzky had been in charge of the Black and Gold’s scouting operations. “I think we addressed a lot of our needs. It wasn’t sexy, but I think we did well in addressing a lot of the organization’s needs.”  

So with the amateur draft and the expansion draft both in the rearview mirror, the Bruins must move on in the roster-building process while still facing a pair of big needs in top-6 left wing and top-4 left side defenseman. They may be able to nail down one of those needs by swinging a trade with their list of available assets including Ryan Spooner, Jimmy Hayes, Jakub Zboril, Adam McQuaid and next year’s first-round pick.

A deal that would send a Spooner-led package elsewhere might be enough to land the big, skilled, young winger that the Bruins are currently in the market for, and provide top-6 insurance in case DeBrusk, Danton Heinen or Anders Bjork all aren’t quite ready for full-time duty skating, passing and finishing off plays with David Krejci.

It might be that the Bruins have to begin thinking about free agency as a viable place if they want to land a solid, top-4 D-man for the next handful of years to pair with Charlie McAvoy. Karl Alzner headlines a list of players that would be a good fit for the Black and Gold, but they would absolutely have to overpay for a 28-year-old UFA that’s averaged 20:13 of ice time per game over the course of his 591 career games with the Washington Capitals. More affordable would be a young, free agent defenseman like Dmitry Kulikov, who is still extremely young as he comes off a rough year with the Buffalo Sabres after getting traded there from Florida. Or other potentially available left-shot free agent defenseman like Brendan Smith or Ron Hainsey could be stop-gap answers for the Bruins until the next crop of D-men in Jakob Zboril, Jeremy Lauzon and Vaakenainen, and others, are ready to step up just like Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy did last season.

The bottom line is that the Bruins did perfectly fine over draft weekend with no true idea until a few years have passed for these teenage prospects, but they need to aim higher than “perfectly fine” with their offseason if they want to be any better at the NHL level next season. A big move or two will be needed from the Bruins front office if the B’s are going to make the jump that everybody wants to see from them over the next couple of seasons.