The Boston Bruins are one of the favorites to come out of the Eastern Conference. The Bruins have earned points in thirteen consecutive games after Monday’s overtime loss against the Stars (9-0-4). During the Bruins’ hot streak many players have stepped into the spotlight. One of these players is David Krejci, who scored the game-tying goal in Montreal to force overtime. Krejci’s role with the team has become smaller due to recently returning from injury and young players stepping up in his place. If the Bruins want to reach their maximum potential they are going to need the thirty-one year old center to play to rediscover his niche.
The key to any team in the NHL is strength up the middle. Many championship teams have great depth at the center position. Look at the Penguins, who are back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions. They have two of the best centers in hockey with Malkin and Crosby. That’s exactly what the Bruins are hoping they can get from their own centers. Krejci has been plagued a number of injuries over the past few seasons. The latest ailment he has is a concerning hip injury. As a result the Czech native has only suited up for twenty three games this year. But now for the first time in a long time Krejci looks healthy, which should have Bruins fans ecstatic.
If Krejci is able to stay healthy for the rest of the regular season and heading into the playoffs, then instantaneously the Bruins look a lot deeper at the center position. That allows Spooner to play a more offensive role at the wing. Also, playing with Debrusk provides Krejci to be creative with the puck playing alongside offensive oriented players. That would make the Bruins insanely hard to defend against with the depth chart of Bergeron/Krejci/Nash/Kuraly.
Throughout his career Krejci has been a reliable offensive weapon. However, in recent years with his inconsistent health and lack of offensive wingers his production has taken a bit of a hit. Now with his improved health and young linemates, the center looks rejuvenated and invested in each shift. The stability he provides into the second center spot every single game cannot be taken for granted. Krejci has great vision in the offensive zone, especially off the rush. He tends to create two-on-ones all over the ice. While he is not nearly as dangerous as he was a few years ago he still possesses elite ability. Especially when it comes to passing the puck. Sometimes it looks like Krejci has eyes in the back of his head with the touch passes he is able to execute.
One of Krejci’s greatest assets is his patience, however it can also be one of his greatest flaws. He currently has only forty-one shots on the season and seven goals. Neither are ideal for an offensive center, but Krejci has always possessed a pass-first mentality. While it can be frustrating when Krejci passes up open shots his 17.1 shooting percentage shows when he does decide to pull the trigger it is usually a good shot. His elite faceoff production has him winning 57.2%. Krejci’s offensive potential out weighs the few deficiencies.
Defense and Physicality
Early in his career Krejci won two plus/minus titles for his stalwart defense. But time and injuries have caused number 46 to slip as a 200 foot player. Last season in eighty-two games Krejci was a -12 and this year he is currently an even player. Now playing alongside Debrusk and Spooner, he has added defensive responsibility. This leads to question if the center can still perform at a serviceable level defensively. Serviceable yes, but anything above that is a major question mark. With his recent injuries he has been noticeably tepid on the ice. He does not battle for the puck along the boards or go into the dirty areas. While that was never the center’s game he at least used to provide some level of physicality when it came to puck battles. Now bigger stronger centers can push Krejci around practically at will.
If the Czech native can get back to playing some respectable defense, then his presence in the lineup will be critical going forward. Defending the Bergeron line is hard enough, let alone defending a productive Krejci line. Maybe the Bruins will be able to mirror the Penguins formula for success.