When it comes to the playoffs, the Bruins go as David Krejci goes. He’s been one of the best players on the ice through four games in Boston’s first-round series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and as a result, the Bruins are one game from winning the series.
Krejci played another phenomenal game, and he capped it with an overtime winner — giving him a hat trick — in the Bruins’ 4-3 overtime win over the Leafs on Wednesday.
The Boston forward is no stranger to scoring big goals and playing his best once spring rolls around. Krejci led the league in points for the club’s Stanley Cup run in 2011, and through four games this postseason, he leads the league in points again with five goals and five assist for 10 points.
“Obviously his line’s been good for the whole series, but David tonight certainly was the guy shining,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “He was on top of his game. He’s been a real good playoff performer for years for us. He continues to do that. There are certain guys who thrive on playoff hockey, and he’s one of those guys.”
Krejci has always had a knack to be in the right place at the right time, and that was the case again on Wednesday in Toronto. The game-winner was set up by a gutsy play by one player, Nathan Horton, and an inexplicable play by another, Dion Phaneuf. Horton went to get a puck along the wall at the blue line in the Boston end, which is where Phaneuf stepped in to line up Horton for a big hit. The Toronto defenseman got enough of the hit, but Horton was able to move the puck at the same time. The pinch and ensuing check cost Phaneuf, as the Bruins went the other way with a 2-on-1 as Krejci carried the puck with Milan Lucic to his right. Krejci decided to shoot, and that was a good decision as he beat Leafs goalie James Reimer under the goalie’s right arm for the game-winner.
“I made a bad play and it cost us the game,” Phaneuf told reporters after the game.
Phaneuf’s gaffe, however, made for a big celebration on the Bruins bench, a party that spilled onto the Air Canada Centre ice as the game ended.
“[Horton] took a hit to make the play,” Krejci said. “He made the play happen. We had the 2-on-1 and I was looking to pass, and I heard [Zdeno Chara] behind me. They took those guys away, so I just shot it and luckily it went in.”
The puck has a way of doing that when it’s on No. 46′s stick in the playoffs. Krejci now has 25-32-57 totals in 63 career playoff games. Obviously his dominance was evident in 2011. But if you go back to 2010, you’ll recall that Krejci was injured in Game 3 of Philadelphia series. It’s probably a little bit more than a coincidence that the Bruins didn’t win another game after the center went down.
“First of all, we know he’s a great playmaker, he’s a skilled player,” Julien said. “But the other part, too, and I said this the other day, is he doesn’t shy away from traffic. He doesn’t shy away from that physical game. He’s very gritty when he needs to be gritty. If he has one weakness, it’s that he’s very hard on himself when things aren’t going well. When you see him play like that, I’m not sure you want to call it a weakness. When he finds his game, he’s a pretty dominant player.”
Krejci found his game just in time for the playoffs. For the Bruins, that more often than not means success.