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.
BRIGHTON -- The Bruins pulled the worst of their no-shows on Monday afternoon in the 4-0 shutout loss to the Islanders.
It was a lethargic, mediocre start in the first period that devolved into the bottom dropping out on the Black and Gold when they allowed three unanswered goals in the second. Then, to top it all off, they showed zero urgency or push to make a comeback in the final period.
It was “unacceptable” in the words of the Bruins players from beginning to end with careless, elementary mistakes in the defensive zone and absolutely zero sustained push in the offensive zone despite a deceiving 32 shots on net.
So, where was the urgency for a Bruins team that’s barely ahead of the Maple Leafs and Senators in the Atlantic Division despite having played six more games than each of those two?
Apparently the Bruins were feeling a little cocky after playing a solid five-game stretch where they’d gone 3-1-1 and taken down the Panthers, Blues and Flyers while elevating their level of play. Heart and soul team leader Patrice Bergeron admitted as much on Tuesday morning as the Bruins cancelled practice and turned their attention toward righting the ship Wednesday night in Detroit.
It was frankly a little stunning to hear Bergeron admit that his Bruins team thought they could win just by showing up on Monday afternoon, but that’s exactly what he copped to in something of an apologetic way.
Brad Marchand said Monday postgame that the Bruins “just weren’t ready [to play]” against the Islanders, and it sounded like his linemate agreed with him.
“It’s about realizing that you can’t take teams lightly, or take the foot off the gas pedal for a period, for a game, or whatever. It hurts us every time we do it, so we have to learn and realize that it just cannot happen. Teams are too good and the points are too valuable for us,” said Bergeron. “You never want to do that, but at the same time maybe it was something that happened because it was a terrible start, and to not respond when they scored the goals. Maybe that’s what happened yesterday.
“As much as you don’t want it to happen, maybe we thought it was going to be an easier game than it actually was against them.”
On the one hand, it’s somewhat shocking to hear that admission from a player that’s always played with full work ethic and an effort level that’s never been questioned. But Bergeron was also a minus-3 in the 4-0 loss and was every bit as guilty as everybody else up and down the roster for the team’s most pathetic loss of the season at a time when results are all that matter.
Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, though, because the lack of urgency on the bench is mirrored by the lack of urgency upstairs in the Bruins management office right now. Bruins general manager Don Sweeney told the Boston Globe last week that he’s considering a move with the head coach along with a number of other things to spark a team treading water, but it doesn’t feel like a major move is on the horizon with this Bruins team.
Trade talks are still in the formative, discussion stages as GMs like Joe Sakic and John Chayka are overvaluing their players looking for a king’s ransom for guys like Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Martin Hanzal and Radim Vrbata. While Claude Julien should be under the microscope with a team sleepwalking its way through perhaps a third season in a row without the playoffs, it also doesn’t feel like the Bruins are going to pull the trigger on that move until the offseason at the earliest.
This humble hockey writer still insists that this playoff-caliber Bruins team plays at times like a one that needs a swift kick in the backside. Perhaps Julien isn’t up for it after 10 long, successful years of battles with the same core group.
So, what is there to do then besides make cosmetic moves like shipping underperforming Anton Khudobin down to Providence, or rearrange the deck chairs on a third and fourth line that it’s difficult to tell apart on most days in Boston?
If the Bruins front office wants to truly get to the bottom of their team’s lack of urgency on the ice, perhaps a look in the mirror might be in order. Because that same lack of urgency is playing out with a management group that’s watching their team sink into the Atlantic Division muck right now and seems gun-shy on making a move that could rattle cages.
“Right now where we are in the standings, we’ve got a lot of games to play but we’re still in a playoff spot,” said Julien. “We try and play with the expectations that we have, and that’s to do the best with what we’ve got. We’ve got a lot of new faces and we’re trying to build with what we’ve got here moving forward.”
Certainly nobody is talking about trading away their blue chip prospects like Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy, but there are veteran players on Boston’s current roster that aren’t cut out for battling into the postseason with a young team. It’s plain to see when a middling hockey team can’t find the inspiration to go out and take care of business against a bad Islanders group on a sleepy Monday afternoon just a month after they made the same mistake against the same team on home ice.
The Bruins showed in a five-game stretch leading up to the Islanders debacle that they should be held to a higher standard - that of a team that should qualify for the postseason. But one question arose again and again watching the poorest of poor efforts play out on Monday afternoon: why should the Bruins players show any feet-in-the-fire urgency on the ice when it doesn’t feel like there’s much feet-in-the-fire urgency from upper management to improve the flailing hockey club?
Until that organizational dynamic changes, it’s difficult to see things getting much better, or worse, for a Bruins team that looks destined for the mediocre middle once again this season.
BRIGHTON, Mass – The Bruins were supposed to hit the ice for the eighth day in a row on Tuesday following their empty 4-0 loss to the New York Islanders on Monday afternoon, but those plans were scrubbed.
The reeling Black and Gold instead cancelled practice, with only Matt Beleskey, Jimmy Hayes and Zane McIntyre taking the ice at Warrior Ice Arena and the rest of the B’s hitting the giant reset button after an embarrassing loss.
“I think it’s one of those [things] where you’ve got to regroup and recharge the batteries, and feel better,” said Patrice Bergeron. “Maybe a little bit of fatigue was part of it [Monday vs. the Isles] and you use a day like today to look forward, look at videos and be better the next day. It happens today and we have another game tomorrow [against Detroit].”
While it is true that the Bruins and Winnipeg Jets have played more games than anybody else in the NHL in this wacky season with a condensed schedule, the B’s leaders weren’t having it as an excuse with both the Maple Leafs and Senators holding an incredible six games in hand on Boston. Blown opportunities against bad opponents are exactly the recipe for missing the playoffs, as they have in each of the past two seasons, and the Bruins are tracking to do that again.
“All of the teams are in the same situation. It’s about managing and finding ways to be at your best every night and in every game. Yes, maybe [the condensed schedule] is part of it, but you can’t just put the blame on that. We’re professionals and we need to show up every game.”
The Bruins didn’t show up against the Islanders on Monday afternoon and basically pulled their second no-show vs. the Isles on home ice this season. There’s no excuse for that given the B’s current situation battling for the postseason.
Maybe a day off the ice will improve that situation and maybe it’s simply rewarding a team that didn’t earn it on Monday afternoon, but the B’s have to hope it’s much more of the former than the latter.