Notes: Krejci has been racking up points

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Notes: Krejci has been racking up points

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

VANCOUVER Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton have enjoyed scoring tears of late for the Bruins, and its no coincidence that those bountiful scoring stretches have come together with a David Krejci revival.

The Czech Republic center disappeared for long stretches of December and January, but hes been revitalized since again pairing together on Bostons top offensive line with Lucic and Horton. Krejci picked up the assist on Lucics game winner in Bostons 3-1 statement win over the Canucks, and has put up a four-game point streak with a goal and seven assists over those last four games.

Bruins coach Claude Julien lauded Krejci for having one of his best games all season against the Calgary Flames earlier this week, and he flashed all of his considerable offensive skills in setting up the third period game-winner.

Krejci cut through Keith Ballard and Sami Salo en route to the net in a classic move to split the Vancouver defense, and continued to carry Ballard on his back as he whirled around the Canucks cage.

I tried to go through him and tried to get a goal, but somehow, something told I wasnt going to score there. So I went around the net and stuff it in around the side. That didnt work either, so I threw it Seidenberg. Looch and Horton are big bodies in front of the net and Luongo couldnt see, so Looch got to the rebound.

Krejci alertly found Dennis Seidenberg open at the right point, and the Bs defensemen slammed a shot that Roberto Luongo managed to block before surrendering a big rebound in front of the net. The puck landed right at the feet of Lucic, and the rest was childhood dream come true material for the Vancouver native.

Last season Krejci truly found his offensive stride while starring for the Czech Republic in the Olympic hockey tournament, and then helped carried the Bruins offense once he returned to Boston. This season February has again been a good month for Krejci, and once more a late season kick has been in the cards for Bostons playmaking pivot.

Theres really no coincidence that Krejci starts unlocking the unique vision, hands and creativity vital to his game when things start to mean more at the end of the season, and he rises to the competition being stacked against him.

You could say that, said Krejci. Im just trying to do my best like I was at the beginning of the year. Sometimes it wasnt going my way, but now Im more excited that those really count right now. Im trying to help my team get into the best shape they can be in headed into the playoffs. Im pretty happy with the way things have been going the last couple of weeks, but I still have 20-something games to go before we get to the playoffs.

Its no secret that the Bruins are achieving consistency and landing some of their best wins of the regular season with Krejci flourishing and again exploiting opposing defenses with his precision passing and surprisingly effective shooting.

The points are piling up again for Krejci, and thats a very good thing for the Black and Gold.

Andrew Ference was out of Saturday nights game after the first period with a lower body injury, and there was no further update after the win over the Canucks. Ference has had issues with groin injuries over the last few years, and theres always the possibility that type of injury has cropped up again.

Shane Hnidy spoke after the game about signing a one-year deal with the Bruins, and was clearly happy with the development while having no clear indication how close he is to returning from a shoulder.

Ive been cleared to practice, and thats about it at this point, said Hnidy. Im very excited. Boston has been a great place I wanted to go back, and here I am. I know there would be a bunch of steps. The first one was getting out there and practicing. The second one was making the team. Now I just need to move forward and get my health ready so I can fill whatever role is needed on the team.

Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley didnt factor much into the offensive end, but they did a lot of little things to help the win. Each player was a major factor in a penalty kill that kept the Canucks off the board in three different power play chances, and Kelly was both blocking shots and winning face-offs in that stretch.

Peverley and Kelly were really good for us. Especially killing that penalty late in the game. Kelly blocked a couple of big shots there in that last penalty kill, and theyre just very smart players. Theyre smart. Theyre quick. Theyve been a really good addition to the hockey club, and theyve fit in quickly.

Shawn Thornton joked after the game that there was a Serbian Army celebrating in the room adjacent to the visitors dressing room at Rogers Arena as the Lucic family hooted, hollered and cheered jubilantly with Milan Lucic after potting the game-winner against his hometown Canucks he rooted for as a hockey-loving child.

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

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

Haggerty: Bruins get chance to show good results weren't just short term

The mission for the Bruins on their four-game road swing through the West Coast is certainly to keep the momentum going, but it’s also to quell any talk that the positive results will be short-lived following the coaching change.

The Bruins won there first three games interim head coach Bruce Cassidy headed into the five-day “bye week”, and they’ll come out on the other side with a potentially dangerous road swing through California that will finish up in Dallas next weekend. 

The Black and Gold have gone into death spirals before on the Cali trip, so that’s always a danger when going coast-to-coast to face tough teams in the Sharks, Ducks and Kings.

There’s also the fact that NHL teams are 3-10-2 as of Saturday afternoon in the first game coming back from the five-day midseason vacation. That means the B’s are going to face a stiff uphill battle on Sunday night against the Pacific Division-leading Sharks. 

The challenge is going to be there for the Bruins to answer all of those challenges when they’ve shrunk away from such adversity most of the season. It gives the Bruins yet another chance to show that the three games aren’t merely a sugar-high after cages had been rattled and is instead something that Boston sustains over the season’s final two-plus months.

“Our thinking is to try to win every game. We know the standings. We know it’s pretty tight. We put ourselves in some of the games in tough situations. Now, we’ve got to climb up and fight for every point,” said Zdeno Chara. “It’s going to be very important that we do that and play that way until the end.

“We can look at the standings as much as we want. I think that we really have to focus on how we play, how we want to go into every game, and what we can do to get as many points as possible.”

The good news for the Bruins is that the teams chasing them in the standings really haven’t gained ground on them, and they enter Saturday still in a playoff spot. So, the mathematics don’t look as dire for Boston as they did going into their rest period, and now they should be energized, recharged and highly motivated headed into the final 24 games of the season.

There’s also the fact that the Bruins were playing exciting, aggressive and winning hockey due to some of the tweaks made by Cassidy after taking control of the team. He finally got some production from the third line after putting forwards Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes together, a combo he never truly gave a look because he didn’t trust them to do the job defensively. Cassidy immediately placed 21-year-old Peter Cehlarik into a top-six role with power-play time straight from the AHL. That’s something one almost never saw happen with rookies and inexperienced guys during Julien’s run.

The B’s defensemen corps scored four goals in the three wins and showed aggressive, timely risk-taking to produce offense when playing it safe was normally the call of the day under Julien. The forwards were avoiding the low-to-high passing to the point that so often resulted in perimeter shots from the Bruins in the offensive zone, and instead attacked the net down low with the forwards looking to put some anxiety into the opponent’s D-zone coverage.

It all worked and it all looked remarkably different from the way the Bruins played in the opening 55 games.

“It’s something we need to bottle up and not change our approach, not change what we’re doing, make sure we’re moving [during the bye] and not just sitting idle and getting rusty,” said David Backes last weekend headed into the bye. “Make sure that mentally, we can have those same sort of mindsets for every guy to be contributing. It’s something that doesn’t show up on the score sheet, but guys are recognized in here for doing those things and that’s winning culture. That’s what we’re building.”

The Bruins now get their chance to prove this is a permanent change to a winning culture rather than a short term, three-game adrenaline rush after watching their longtime coach get fired. It won’t be easy, but it shouldn’t be for the Black and Gold if they’re finally going to earn their way into the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in three seasons. 

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Saturday, Feb. 18: NHL more likely in Seattle than NBA?

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while hoping that Purple Passion doesn’t try the same comeback as Zima.

*A Seattle investor says that an NHL team coming to that city is much more likely than a return by the NBA to the Pacific Northwestern city.

*Gare Joyce writes eloquently about the loneliness of a hockey scout, and how that world can sometimes come to a crashing halt.  

*Good piece from Arpon Basu giving the sights and sounds of Claude Julien’s second stint behind the bench with the Montreal Canadiens.

*The agent for Russian player Maxim Shalunov says there is a “10 percent chance” that he’s going to sign with the Chicago Blackhawks.

*Mike Babcock says not to expect any big trade deadline deals from the Toronto Maple Leafs as they push for a playoff spot.

*Henrik Zetterberg reflects on a difficult season with the Detroit Red Wings where it looks like things might finally come down to a crashing halt.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/sports/nhl/red-wings/2017/02/17/red-wings-zetterberg-reflects-tough-season/98064530/

*The Minnesota Wild have underrated depth on their team, and the Hockey News says it might just be their scariest attribute.

*For something completely different: as referenced above, it looks like that Zima drink of the 1990s is trying to make a comeback. I was in college when the Zima people were seemingly flooding campuses with advertising and samples back in the day.