BOSTON — Chris Kelly received a lot of criticism in the offseason as a guy who couldn’t stay healthy and whose salary cap hit of $3 million was a burden to a Bruins team that was over the cap ceiling for parts of the summer.
Kelly has silenced his critics through the first 10 games of the 2014-15 campaign and is playing an important role at both ends of the ice.
“I want to be here, there’s no question about that,” Kelly said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “This is a great team and a great place to play hockey. I’m aware of the cap situation, I do read that. I want to play the way I know I can play and contribute in all three zones. Maybe with injuries over the last two years I’ve just been unlucky, and I haven’t unable to do that. It’s been a decent start for myself, but I still think I can be better and contribute more.”
His seven points (two goals, five assists) are the second-most on the team. He’s tied with linemate Carl Soderberg and one point behind David Krejci for the team’s scoring lead.
After scoring the game-winner in the season-opening victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, Kelly failed to tally a point in his next three games, but he’s rebounded strong and has totaled six points (one goal, five assists) in his last six games. Him and Krejci are the only Bruins players with point streaks of five games or longer this season.
Kelly also is making a strong impact defensively. Even though he’s primarily played left wing on the third line alongside Soderberg and Loui Eriksson, the veteran forward has taken most of the faceoffs, especially in the defensive zone. He’s won 58 percent of his faceoffs on home ice and 54 percent of his faceoffs on the penalty kill, where he plays 2:16 per game (the most short-handed ice time among Bruins forwards).
Kelly has been on the ice for 19.50 shots against per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 even strength, the third-best total of any Bruins forward with seven or more games played. The two players with a better number are his linemates. Boston also has a 93.02 save percentage when Kelly is on the ice (fifth-best mark among B’s forwards with seven or more games played).
Fans often forget that Kelly scored a career-high 20 goals in his last healthy 82-game season in 2011-12. He’s a valuable player when injury-free because of his strong two-way game, ability to kill penalties, faceoff skill and leadership on and off the ice.
“Every game I feel more and more comfortable, getting my legs going again,” Kelly said. “It was difficult to do a lot of explosive stuff in the summer because of the injury.”
Kelly is on pace to score 54 points if he plays all 82 games (he’s played a full season four times in nine NHL seasons). That scoring rate probably isn’t sustainable, but if Kelly were to reach 40 points for the first time in his career, it would be valuable scoring production for a team trying to replace Jarome Iginla’s 61 points from last season.
Photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images
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