Krejci Focused on Helping Bruins Close out Series
MONTREAL - On Monday morning at the Bell Centre, David Krejci was the first Bruin down the tunnel and onto the ice for pregame skate.
He and his teammates were just about eight hours away from puck drop on Game 6 against Montreal, with the advantage of a 3-2 series lead.
Krejci gathered a pile of pucks in the "Stanley Cup Playoffs" logo just inside the blueline, and began firing away.
Johnny Boychuk and the rest of the Bruins soon began filtering out as well. Boychuk gladly helped in sending Krejci pass after pass in the slot for him to fire at the open net.
It wasn't really anything too out of the ordinary. Players hit the ice early every day.
But Krejci is still searching for the back of the net this postseason - during game action, and not just morning skates - and he's not usually the first one on the ice.
The centerman has three assists through 10 games so far in the playoffs, and one assist in this series, on Milan Lucic's empty-netter that sealed a 5-3 comeback win in Game 2.
"Didn’t want to make any point. Just wanted to go out there and get better, see the ice, feel the puck, feel more confident," said Krejci, sitting in his stall in the visiting team locker room at the Bell Centre on Monday following the team's skate.
"And, you know, at this time, when you’re in a slump like I am, then you have to get better, you have to work on your game and I’ve been trying to do that."
"Like I said, I owe it to these guys - I want to come up big for them and get a win tonight."
No better time for Krejci to have a breakout night, right?
"I've been in this position before, I know that I can be the player, so I'm just trying to stay positive and go out there, work hard," said Krejci. "My teammates have been doing a pretty good job of winning the hockey games, so I think my time’s just around the corner."
When they play big, strong and physical, and manage the puck well, they spend plenty of time in the offensive zone. The longer they wear down the opponent shift after shift, the more productive they become.
Though Iginla's goal last game came on the power play, it will no doubt give him more confidence heading into Game 6. And when all three of them are confident and clicking, and winning the battles down low, it usually bodes well for the Bruins.
"Although it wasn’t a five-on-five goal, it was nice to see Iggy score again and that line, you can see, is starting to turn the corner," Head Coach Claude Julien said on Sunday, before the team traveled to Montreal.
"We need our best team to close out this series and if those guys can find their rhythm, that’s going to be a big help to our team."
"You know what, I want to help the team as much as I can - I’m going to do everything I can to put the puck in the net as well," said Krejci.
"But it’s a team sport. If we win this game we’re in the next round, and every single round starts from 0-0. So all my focus is to do the job, whatever it takes - faceoffs, block shots, whatever, I’ll do it, but my main focus is to put the puck in the net."
Krejci came into the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs having led postseason scoring two out of the past three years.
In 2013, he put up nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points through 22 games as the Bruins made it through the Final.
In 2011, en route to the Cup, he fired in 12 goals and recorded 11 assists for 23 points through 25 games.
Right now, the Bruins' alternate captain knows he needs to produce more. But that pressure is coming from within, not from his teammates, and certainly not from his coach, who constantly stresses their 'team' game.
"He’s just a character guy and he’s demanding of himself," said Julien, when told by a reporter that Krejci was putting the onus on himself Monday morning to find a way to start producing.
"He’s been a good player for us all year. And just because he hasn’t scored yet, doesn’t mean he doesn’t care and doesn’t try."
"So you've got to work with those guys and try to help them find solutions, but a lot of it has to come from them and if he’s that focused, that’s a good sign for us."
Krejci always battles, he always competes, but not being able to help his team on the scoresheet has made him frustrated.
For a player who leads by example, he hasn't let that frustration affect the mentality of his teammates around him.
"He’s usually pretty quiet. He’s frustrated - I know him well enough to know when [he is] - but he doesn’t show it," said Julien. "He just kind of goes about his business, but he also knows it’s a matter of time before things start going a little bit better for him, and again, that reaction says a lot about him."
The Bruins have gone through 10 games, and seven wins, without playoff-like production from Krejci. But that doesn't matter now.
All they need is one win, Monday night at the Bell Centre, to get one step closer to their goal - and the centerman who has a knack for finding ways to come up big in the postseason is focused on making that happen.
"As a player, you go on the ice, you go in the game, with the focus to give your all."