The Bruins lost their Eastern Conference semifinal series with Philadelphia in the spring of 2010 for a number of reasons, but the biggest may have been the loss of David Krejci.
The young center who turned 24 just days before that series began scored four goals and had four assists in the Bruins' first 11 postseason games before a big hit from Mike Richards promptly ended his season. How Krejci would come back from injury was among the many question marks surrounding the B's as they kicked off their 2010-11 campaign.
2010-11 stats: 75 games, 13-49-62, plus-23, 28 PIMs
Playoffs: 25 games, 12-11-23, plus-8, 10 PIMs
Contract status: Signed through 2011-12, $3.75-million cap hit
Preseason expectations: After falling from a career-high 73 points in 2008-09 to just 52 in 2009-10, Krejci was being counted upon to return to his previous heights. The Bruins looked for him to take over as the club’s top-line center with the questions surrounding Marc Savard going into the season.
Regular-season evaluation: Krejci, 25, showed no lingering effects of the wrist injury that ended his postseason the previous spring as he quickly clicked with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton, putting up 10 points in his first nine games. Krejci did miss six games with a concussion in November and one more with the flu at the start of December, but eased any concerns about his durability by playing in 85 straight games (including playoffs) the rest of the way.
Krejci finished tied for the team scoring lead with 62 points, but just 12 of those came on the power play. A solid two-way player, Krejci contributed in all areas of the ice, finishing a plus-23 with 40 blocked shots (third on team among forwards) and the 6-foot, 178-pounder even chipped in 56 hits and had his first two NHL fights. Both of those came against Montreal, as he fared well against Michael Cammalleri, but wasn’t as fortunate against new teammate Benoit Pouliot.
Playoff evaluation: As good as Krejci was in the regular season, he elevated his game much higher in the playoffs. He led the Bruins — and the league – with 23 points in 25 games, and showed he can be a finisher as well as a playmaker. After scoring just 13 goals in 75 regular-season games, he had 12 in 25 playoff contests.
That included four game-winners after managing just two game-winning goals in the regular season. It wasn’t a commitment to shooting more (2.09 shots a game in regular season, 2.28 shots a game in playoffs), but rather making the most of his chances (8.3 shooting percentage in regular season, 21.1 shooting percentage in playoffs).
Krejci did all that despite a slow start in the postseason, as he had just one point in seven games against Montreal. He made up for that with 4-5-9 totals in a four-game sweep of the Flyers and never looked back. He even improved his faceoff work, winning 51.8 percent of his playoff draws after a subpar 48.7 winning percentage in the regular season.
2011-12 outlook: For the first time in three years, Krejci didn’t need offseason surgery and will come into a season healthy. He’ll also come in with his confidence soaring after his playoff performance. And he’ll come in with plenty of motivation to continue piling up points as he enters the final year of his contract with a chance to cash in next summer with a new deal.
Krejci has proven chemistry with Lucic and Horton on the top line, as those two create space for him to operate with their physical play and he rewards them with his slick playmaking skills. He’ll be counted on to produce more on the power play and the Bruins would certainly love to see his goal-scoring production from the playoffs carry over to the new season, but there isn’t a lot to complain about in Krejci’s solid all-around game.
If he continues the upward trajectory of his career this season, the Bruins certainly won’t be complaining, even if it increases the cost of retaining him next summer.
Coming Tuesday, July 19: Milan Lucic