WILMINGTON, Mass. David Krejci is trying to keep his mind in exactly the right framework this year.The 25-year-old center has been through offensive struggles before and has always been a streaky performer. Krejci will go through stretches where points and production arrive in bunches like whenhe scored a team-leading12 goalsduring last years playoffs, and hell recede to the level of a background artist on ice for weeks at a time.The playmaking pivot has always pulled out of those scoring droughts in the past, and theres no reason to think he wont do that again. But the cold, hard hockey fact is that Krejci has two points and is minus-2 in his last eight games, and is pacing to put up 13 goals and 43 points along with a minus-14 this season.The center knows to ignore the numbers when things are going badly, but its sometimes difficult when one of his main jobs as a top line center is creating offense for a team expected to be among the NHLs best. It makes things easier when the team has won 10 of their 11 games and is ranked second in the NHL in goals per game, but hes self-aware enough to know hes not playing his best."Weve been there before. We know its a long season, and it been up and down for my line," said Krejci. "I feel like were going up now, and hopefully we can get there soon and stay for as long as we can. Im feeling pretty good and Im getting new skates today . . . so thats a good sign."Once youve had them for too long they get too soft, and you cant take turns as sharply. It takes me two practices to break new skates in, so it should work out perfectly for Wednesday against Toronto."So aside from a new pair of his customary skates, what makes things different for the Czech Republic center this season?Well, Krejcis contract is up at the end of the season as a restricted free agent and there hasnt been a great deal of movement toward a new deal. Its expected the center will be seeking a payday in the Patrice Bergeron neighborhood of 5 million per season, and that becomes a problem of simple roster math.The Bruins have three potential top line centers well under the age of 30 in Krejci, Bergeron and Tyler Seguin, and none of them would really fit in a third line center role. Temporarily Seguin is playing the wing and everything is good. But eventually those three centers will need to be pared town to a pair when it comes to salary cap considerations and simple roster composition. Thats thereality of the situation.So Krejcis name has been whispered in trade possibilities without any actual deals coming to the forefront. It would clearly have to be a major score for the Bruins to move their young playoff hero, but its also more of a possibility this season than its ever been before given the surplus down the middle.Krejci is a smart guy, and he knows the score. Hes heard all of the above as he attempts to simply play things out through the regular season and playoffs. Hes off to the worst start in his five-year NHL career and one has to wonder if the contract, trade rumors or any other issues are causing him to exert a little too much pressure on himself."I hope its not. I know its my contract year and there are lots of things I want to prove to people that I can do," said Krejci. "Im putting big expectations on myself for this season. Now the season has started, and even when Im playing good Im not putting the points on the sheet. People judge me by points and I dont like it. That gets me thinking a lot at night and stuff."I feel like Im getting better and were winning so its been fun with all of the guys and stuff. So Im not worried too much about it. Ive got 60 games left. Id have some bad stretches and Ive had some great stretches. I feel like I got ready for the season well enough and Im going to get back up there again."Everybody knows that players need to produce points and goals if theyre looking for the big bucks, and neither one has come all that easily for Krejci this season. Most everyone thinks the center will once again emerge from his offensive struggles provided hes putting in his current level of effort and commitment, and continuing to skate with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Krejcis coach would like his centers game to become more consistent on a nightly basis, and he hopes Krejci quits worrying about the stuff that he cant control."Weve seen him catch fire all of a sudden and he keeps producing and producing. The one thing David would like to get better at and wed like to see him improve at is his consistency," Julien said. "Streaky can be good when youre on a good stretch, but consistency can be even better. I know hed like to be better and its something hed like to keep working on."Bergeron earned his contract extension last autumn in part because everyone knows what they can expect from him 82 games a season in Black and Gold, and he rarely disappoints. Hes also proven capable of scoring 30 goals in a season and topping the 70-point mark when put in more of an offensive position as he is now paired with Seguin.Krejci will be in that class salary and reputation-wise only when he can bring the same playmaking and creativity every single game while combining it with two-way effort and responsibility.Hes not there yet, but his coach knows Krejci is still working at it diligently."Hes probably not getting the points on the board the way wed like it to be, and when I saw we Im including ourselves," Julien said. "That line is capable of scoring and putting points on the board, but that hasnt been happening much lately. In the course of the season you have those highs and lows, and you have to be patient. If Krejcis line were playing in their own end all of the time or playing lazy, then it would be a different situation."Whether its snake-bitten or a lack of confidence, I like their work ethic and with time Im sure its going to come around."If past performance is any indicator of the future, it wont be longbefore Krejci has his game together. When he does, he'll holda fewanswersto the questions he had for himself entering a this pivotal season.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while honoring and remembering those that paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freed on this Memorial Day.
*Here’s a hockey column from Mark Madden, which kind of proves his dopiness when it comes to pucks. He writes about Pittsburgh’s excellent shutdown pair of Ian Cole and Justin Schultz, who have averaged a whopping 15 and 13 minutes of ice time respectively in these playoffs. Yeah, that’s not a shutdown pair. That’s called a bottom pairing.
*PHT writer Joey Alfieri with another chapter in hockey’s version of the Never-ending Story: John Scott wants to make his own World Cup team with Phil Kessel.
*Mike Sullivan reminisces about coaching Joe Thornton, and playing for the San Jose Sharks, as his Penguins ready to take on San Jose in the Stanley Cup Final.
*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s me wondering what the heck the Bruins are doing on Sports Sunday last night on CSN.
*Apparently Alex Semin is going to stay in the KHL for this coming season. I don’t think anybody is too heartbroken around the NHL about this given the way things ended for him.
*Buffalo’s Mike Harrington says that Sidney Crosby returns to the Stanley Cup Final with a new kind of hunger.
*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Zeisberger goes 1-on-1 with Joe Thornton, who says that the cat likes his Hillbilly Jim playoff beard.
*For something completely different: I haven’t yet read this Joe Posnanski piece on the play Hamilton and his daughter, but I’ll include it because everybody says that it’s great.
Joe Haggerty joins Sports Sunday to talk about the Boston Bruins and Don Sweeney re-signing Kevan Miller to a four-year deal and believes they need to make a clean break from some players.
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while feeling like I was watching the Heart of a Champion in that Golden State/Oklahoma City game last night. That Klay Thompson is something else.
*PHT writer James O’Brien wonders what the next step is for Troy Brouwer now that he’s ready to hit free agency, and the ride has finally come to an for the Blues this season.
*Excellent piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Kevin Paul Dupont on the sad story of Kevin Stevens, and the drug addiction demons that have had him in their clutches for a long time. I’ve known about Stevens troubles for a while, and it’s too bad because he really is a gregarious guy when you get to know him.
*Allan Muir speculates on the future of Steve Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning now that the offseason has begun for both of them.
*P.K. Subban doesn’t sound like he’s got any hard feelings about being left off Team Canada for the World Cup of Hockey, and said he’ll still be rooting them along.
*Pat Hickey mentions the Subban snub, but is incredulous that Habs center Alex Galchenyuk was left off Team North America.
*Larry Brooks breaks down how exactly former Bruins head coach and New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Sullivan was able to emerge from John Tortorella’s shadow some 10 years later.
*For something completely different: sad story all around in Cincinnati where they had to had to shoot an endangered gorilla dead when a four year old child fell into his enclosure.