Stanley Cup Final 2013: Boston Bruins' Offense at Heart of Incredible Run
David Krejci is a master of stealth.
He may have figured out the best way to become one of the best offensive players in the NHL. He does it by playing it cool during the regular season and then dominating in the postseason.
Krejci does not waste his energy by building up gaudy stats in the regular season. He's content to be a middle-of-the-road player with mediocre numbers (10 goals, 23 assists in 2013), but he is a holy terror in the postseason. Krejci is leading all NHL players with 21 points in the playoffs, having scored nine goals and 12 assists.
He is the best offensive player on the rampaging Boston Bruins. The Bruins are a complete team, one that features a thumping and well-positioned defense led by Zdeno Chara and superb goaltending from Tuukka Rask.
But it's their underrated offense, averaging 3.12 goals per game, that has propelled them to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons.
It was the offense that got them out of the muck in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Bruins were trailing the Maple Leafs 4-1 in the seventh game. As the Bruins contemplated a summer on the golf course, Nathan Horton scored as the game approached the midway point of the third period. That stopped the bleeding and got the Bruins within two.
That lit the fuse on the greatest comeback in the history of Bruins hockey.
Milan Lucic slammed home a Chara rebound with 1:22 remaining after head coach Claude Julien pulled Rask and Patrice Bergeron scored the tying goal with 51 seconds left. He would clinch the series with a goal at the 6:05 mark of overtime.
Four goals in less than 17 minutes saved the Bruins' season. Not only did the Bruins have an offensive surge, they did so at the most opportune time possible.
In the conference semifinal round, the Bruins were supposed to have a big problem on their hands against the New York Rangers. How were they going to find the back of the net against goalie Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers' regiment of shot-blockers?
They did it by turning to an unknown rookie defenseman in Torey Krug, who had played three regular-season games in his career. Injuries forced the Bruins to call on Krug and he dominated Lundqvist by scoring four goals in five games.
Krug looked unimposing, since he is a full foot shorter than the 6'9" Zdeno Chara, but he played big thanks to his skating, instincts, toughness and superb shot.
The four-game sweep over the Penguins will be remembered for Rask's performance. He had a 0.44 goals-against average, .985 save percentage and two shutouts. Rask stopped 134 of 136 shots against the best offensive team in hockey.
But the Bruins received clutch goal scoring throughout the series. Krejci had two goals in Game 1 and Horton had a goal and two assists.
The Bruins took a stranglehold on the series with a 6-1 win in Game 2. Brad Marchand, the Little Ball of Hate, scored two goals in the first period.
Marchand took advantage of a Sidney Crosby turnover 28 seconds into the game and scored on a breakaway over Tomas Vokoun's shoulder. Then, he finished the Pens with a wrister past Marc-Andre Fleury's glove hand in the final seconds of the period, giving the Bruins a 4-1 lead.
The Bruins needed Bergeron's clutch deflection of Marchand's overtime pass to win Game 3 and defenseman Adam McQuaid closed out the Penguins with a blue-line blast in Game 4 for the game's only goal.
The Bruins had their dazzling moments in the Eastern Conference Final, particularly when Krejci, Lucic and Horton threw the puck around in Game 2 as if they were...well, the Penguins.
The Bruins are likelier to play bump-and-grind hockey, though. Throw the puck in deep, drive the corners, go get the puck and take it to the net.
It's not always pretty, but it has helped the Bruins maintain possession of the puck and wear down opponents. Nobody does this better than Lucic, who throws his 220-pound body around with abandon and regularly allows his teammates to come away with the puck.
Winning the battle in the corners has been the Bruins' mantra for decades. It may not lead to classic Montreal Canadiens or Edmonton Oilers offensive hockey, but it just may bring Boston its second Stanley Cup in three seasons.
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