Boston Bruins: Can Chris Kelly Keep Up the Pleasant Surprises?

Al DanielCorrespondent IINovember 3, 2011

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 01:  Chris Kelly #23 of the Boston Bruins celebrates his goal in the second period against the Ottawa Senators on November 1, 2011 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

In each of his first six full NHL seasons, Boston Bruins checking-liner Chris Kelly has never amassed more than 15 goals. It's early, but right now he is on pace to hit that mark by the time he has played 55 games in the 2011-12 campaign, and he could break the 20-goal plateau before the season ends.

More tellingly, this is the quickest Kelly has taken to reach his current log of three goals and seven points. Last year he had three strikes through his first 13 games and required 14 outings to reach seven points in 2007-08, when his Ottawa Senators were coming off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final.

Moreover, as Kelly was setting this new bar for himself, his impact was arguably felt more in Boston’s 5-3 win over the Senators Tuesday night than in any other outing to date this season. Despite a slight dip in ice time from the previous three outings, he had a hand in both of the Bruins’ go-ahead goals, slugging one home to grant a 3-2 lead and late setting up Johnny Boychuk’s clincher.

Tuesday’s upshot spoke fluently to Kelly’s welcome contributions in the statistical absence of Nathan Horton, David Krejci and the like. It will, however, require an assertive break from old patterns for him to keep up his career-high productivity.

From his rookie year through five-plus seasons of both high and low times with the Ottawa franchise and right up to his transfer to Boston at last year’s trading deadline, protracted scoring slumps have been a chronic recurrence.

Here is a year-to-year breakdown of that unfavorable motif, starting with Kelly’s first full year in The Show right after the lockout.

2005-06: Played all 82 regular-season games and finished with a 10-20-30 scoring log, but also had nine individual cold spells lasting eight games, 14 games, three games, six games, four games, six games, three games, three games and three games.

2006-07: Scored what remains a career-best with 15 goals and 38 points in 82 appearances, but had eight different droughts lasting four games, four games, six games, seven games, nine games, four games, three games and six games, respectively.

2007-08: Charged up 11 goals and 30 points in 75 games-played, but had seven cold streaks lasting three games, four games, six games, four games, five games, four games and five games.

2008-09: Dressed for all 82 games and produced a 12-11-23 transcript, but had 10 different scoreless skids lasting four games, six games, seven games, three games, four games, four games, five games, four games, four games and nine games.

2009-10: Matched a career-high with 15 goals along with 17 assists, though he took 19 games to score his first goal. Also had four individual dry spells lasting five games apiece and later went through an 18-game stretch with only two goals plus a nine-game drought. Kelly then finished the regular season with no points in seven outings.

2010-11: Combined for 14 goals and 28 points in 81 games between the Senators and Bruins, but went without any production for seven games in mid-October. Kelly had a 10-game pointless skid and 14-game goal drought that he finally splashed with a hat trick Dec. 5 against the Rangers. After the trade, he scored two assists in his first six appearances with Boston and then matched a career nadir with 14 straight scoreless outings for the better part of March.

As it happened, Kelly started this campaign on a four-game scoreless skid, each of his three shots on goal in that span coming in a 4-1 win over Tampa Bay on Oct. 8. Over the seven games since then, he has chipped in on four individual scoresheets, including three two-point outings.

Translation: Starting with his shorthanded strike in Chicago Oct. 15 and running through his goal-assist performance against his old friends Tuesday night, he has been on a point-per-game pace. And he has landed at least one shot on net in each of the last seven games.

Only Tyler Seguin and Milan Lucic have matched or exceeded Kelly’s output in that span.

But is this the year he pitches in on a consistent basis from start to finish? Well, for now, his output at the 11-game mark is as promising as it has ever been.

Please stand by.