David Krejci’s 2010 playoffs came to an abrupt halt against the Flyers in Game 3 of the second round. Philadelphia Mike Richards laid an open ice hit injuring Krejci’s wrist and ending his season. The Bruins center-man was playing well, posting four goals and four assists in nine games.
How did the Bruins respond to losing one of their most talented offensive players?
Little did anyone know at the time, but this was the beginning of the end for the Bruins. Boston would lose the next four games after a three-game series lead. The Bruins made history, but the worst kind with an epic choke.
Entering the 2011 season, the Bruins, especially David Krejci, had some unfinished business. They had to erase the nightmare that was the historical collapse versus the Flyers. David Krejci also wanted to establish himself as a true No. 1 center in the NHL.
Krejci was paired up with fan favorite Milan Lucic and the newly acquired Nathan Horton to form the team’s true top line. After Marc Savard was lost to another concussion just 25 games into the season, the stage was set for the Czech Republic native to showcase his offensive skills on the power play and even strength.
Krejci and his linemates produced, but perhaps not as well as they wanted. Granted, Milan Lucic had a career-high with 30 goals, but he hit a dry spell at the tail end of the season (and into the playoffs). Nathan Horton was hot and cold, finishing with 26 goals. Krejci had a nice offensive season with 62 points, but he was not posting “elite” center numbers with the likes of Henrik Sedin (94 pts), Steven Stamkos (91 pts) or even Brad Richards (77 pts).
Sometimes the wear and tear of the regular season weighs on a player and performances are inconsistent. However, in the postseason there is no time for let up. It’s go time, all the time. Unfortunately, for the Bruins top line they started extremely slow out of the gate versus Montreal.
In the first two games versus rival Montreal, the Bruins fell flat on their faces at home. The Bruins top line did not register a point as the team could only squander one goal. For the Bruins to bounce back in the series, it was up to their top players to respond.
In Game 3 , both Krejci and Horton scored goals en route to a 4-2 win. The Bruins would get another huge win in Montreal with a 5-4 comeback OT win, but the line of Krejci-Lucic-Horton went scoreless. The Boston onslaught was generated by the lines anchored by Patrice Bergeron and Chris Kelly.
Boston returned home for pivotal Game 5. Krejci’s linemate Nathan Horton scored the winner in a dramatic double OT affair, but Krejci failed to register a point for the fourth time in five games. Krejci’s postseason performance thus far was barely fourth-line worthy.
The Bruins failed to close out Montreal in Game 6 and sputtered out yet again offensively with Dennis Seidenberg scoring Boston’s lone goal. The Bruins were facing a dreaded Game 7 at home, which has not been a friend of theirs over the last few seasons.
Luckily for Boston, they were able to overcome two blown leads to win the series on another clutch Nathan Horton overtime goal. The Bruins were moving on, but their top pivot was struggling mightily. David Krejci had one goal in seven games against the Canadiens, and Milan Lucic couldn't find the back of the net either. If it wasn’t for Nathan Horton’s heroics, the Bruins scoring line would have been an utter embarrassment.
The Bruins advanced to play the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round and they played like men possessed. The epic collapse from the previous postseason was still fresh in their minds. David Krejci came out of his offensive doldrums in a very big way and played like he had something to prove.
Boston blew out the Flyers in Game 1, 7-3, led by David Krejci’s four-point night (two goals, two assists). In Game 2, Krejci decided to take a page from Nathan Horton’s book and become the OT hero. After erasing a 2-0 Philadelphia lead, the Bruins forced the game to OT. Krejci was fed by Horton, and his one-timer sailed over Brian Boucher’s blocker for the game winner. However, play continued and the goal was reviewed, but it stood. The Bruins, led by David Krejci, were returning to Boston with a 2-0 series lead.
There would be no miraculous comebacks for the Flyers this year. The Bruins dominated at home with two 5-1 victories, sweeping Philadelphia from the playoffs. Krejci was continued to be an offensive juggernaut, posting one goal and three assists in the final two games of the series. Not only did the Bruins avenge their historic collapse, but David Krejci had awoken from his offensive slumber by posting nine points in the four-game sweep.
Krejci had one series against Montreal that he would soon rather forget, and played versus Philadelphia like an elite center. Would David Krejci lace up the skates against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals?
He made a lot of big plays against Tampa. In Game 3, he scored the winning goal in Boston’s 2-0 shutout. In a losing effort in Game 6, Krejci scored his first career playoff hat-trick. However, he saved the best for last.
The Bruins found themselves in another deciding Game 7 at home. The game was scoreless heading into the final period. It felt like the first team that scored would be punching themselves a ticket to the Stanley Cup Final. The Bruins were able to combat Tampa’s famous 1-3-1 defense with a tape-to-tape pass from Krejci to Nathan Horton for the game’s only tally. There was no doubt that Krejci got his groove back (five goals, two assists vs. Tampa).
The Bruins advanced to the Cup final for the first time in 21 years, fueled by the play of No. 46 in black and gold. Lucic was still struggling to score goals, but Horton and Krejci were clicking on all cylinders. The first line would have to bring their “A” game versus the top scoring team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks.
In the Stanley Cup Final, the Bruins were starting to form bad habits again. They broke down defensively at the most inopportune times and offensively struggled in Vancouver. For the second time in the postseason, they found themselves down 2-0 in a series.
The story of the 2010-2011 Boston Bruins was of resiliency and they showed that at home. The Bruins imposed their will on Vancouver at home, outscoring them 12-1 in Games 3 and 4. However, the Bruins lost Nathan Horton to a concussion for the remainder of the series. Horton’s absence did not affect Krejci’s offensive output as he continued to play at a high level with whoever was on his wings. Elite players make their teammates better.
Boston would have a hiccup on the road in Game 5, losing 1-0, but took control of the series in Game 6. The Bruins won another spirited home game with a 5-2 victory and yet again Krejci tallied another goal on the stat sheet.
The line of the Bergeron-Marchand-Recchi stole the spotlight in Game 7, but on championship teams, contributions need to come from everyone. The Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup because players such as Brad Marchand, Dennis Seidenberg and David Krejci elevated their games to a higher level when it mattered most.
Good players can become great in the playoffs. David Krejci was the epitome of this. In 75 regular season games, he only scored 13 goals. During 23 playoff games, he scored 12 with four game winners. He led the NHL playoffs in goals (12), points (23) and game-winning goals (four).
During this postseason run, David Krejci didn’t wither after a sub-par showing versus Montreal. He didn’t get too cocky after a dominating series performance against the Flyers. Krejci’s play became consistent and he produced under pressure against Tampa and Vancouver.
Elite players in the NHL don’t get rattled and perform under pressure. They make their teammates around them better and know what it takes to be a champion. David Krejci matured into an elite playmaker and goal scorer in the two-month odyssey that is the Stanley Cup playoffs. Now he can add champion to his hockey resume.