PITTSBURGH — There are two kinds of performers. Those whose act is drowned out by a big stage and those whose performance is amplified by it. David Krejci’s act only becomes better on hockey’s grandest stage — the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Bruins forward is a Czech who can’t be voided in the postseason. You can bank on Krejci elevating his game come playoff time. He did it in 2011, when the Bruins hoisted the Cup, leading the playoffs in goals (12) and points (23). He’s doing it again.
After scoring two goals in Boston’s 3-0 Eastern Conference finals-opening victory over the Penguins Saturday night, Krejci has 19 postseason points to lead all players. His seven goals are tied for second with Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Pascal Dupuis and only three fewer than Krejci scored in 47 games during an ad-hoc hockey regular season.
In a game that featured the NHL’s box office idol, Crosby, its reigning MVP and scoring champion in Evgeni Malkin, and a future Hall of Famer in Jarome Iginla it was Krejci’s performance that seized the spotlight and Game 1 for the Bruins.
Krejci has become the Boston hockey answer to Rajon Rondo, who is famous for rationing out his best basketball for national television and the playoffs. Rondo has 18 regular-season triple-doubles in 475 games. He has 10 in 92 playoff games.
They share not only a work address — TD Garden — but uncanny playmaking ability and a penchant for saving their best games for the most important ones on the schedule.
They also share the same question. If you’re capable of being a leading man for the most important two-month stretch of the season then why does your brilliance only make guest appearances during the regular season?
Bruins coach Claude Julien said the culprit for Krejci might be ennui, the dull, rinse and repeat repetition of the regular season.
“I think it’s he’s one of those guys that really loves the playoffs and loves the intensity and excitement that comes with it and really gets up for those,” said Julien.
“And we often say that when there are 82 games in the season, there are guys that get bored with it. And I know it’s not what people want to hear, but when I say ‘get bored,’ it’s like trying to get up for 82 games is maybe unrealistic.”
Maybe Julien needs to make sure that Krejci has a schedule that only has three months — April, May, and June — on it. Or in these times of technological reliance, change the calendar function on his center’s cellphone.
The 27-year-old Krejci is a wonderful talent. He has the hands of a heart surgeon, the spatial sense of an architect, and the guts of a burglar.
Yes, he is prone to fading into the background at times during the regular season, but he gets a pucks pardon because of his splendid playoff play.
Few remember that when the Bruins blew a 3-0 lead to the Flyers in the 2010 Eastern Conference semifinals they lost the final four games without David the Playoff Goliath.
He dislocated his wrist in the first period of Game 3 on a Mike Richards check. History may have looked more kindly upon those Black-and-Fold Bruins if Krejci, who had 8 points in nine playoff games that year, had been available.
Since the start of the 2010 playoffs, Krejci has been nearly a point-a-game player in hockey’s second season — 53 points in 54 postseason games.
His line with wingers Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton has been the Bruins’ triple threat in these playoffs.
Krejci, who was second on the Bruins in points during the regular season with 33, shouldn’t be penalized for presenting a better version of himself in the postseason.
He should be lauded for it.
Otherwise we’re creating an unfair double-standard of playoff performance.
Players who put up gaudy regular-season numbers and then go poof in the playoffs are excoriated for — sports cliché alert!— not being able to win the big ones.
They’re subject to dissection, debate, and deprecation for shrinking like dried-up tulips when it matters most.
I didn’t just imagine the chopping down of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker over two passes he couldn’t corral the last two postseasons.
Failure to seize the stage is a criticism that players such as Peyton Manning, LeBron James, and Alex Rodriguez all had to deal with before they won their championships.
So, a guy who consistently delivers when it matters most shouldn’t be criticized. He’s doing it in the games we value the most. That counts more than stats.
“When you look at the way guys perform it’s not what they change in their game; they’re the same players,” said Julien. “It’s about the excitement and intensity and everything else and being even more prepared than they are during the regular season.
“Like I said, there’s a lot of guys that you’re going to see do extremely well during the season, get in the playoffs and they’re nowhere to be seen . . . David Krejci to me has had a really good season this year.
“I think he’s been as consistent as we’ve ever seen.”
The Stanley Cup playoffs are among the most emotional, passionate, and grueling of the pro sports postseasons. So, Krejci’s teammates certainly appreciate a player who packs his best performances in the playoffs.
“I think it just kind of shows the type of player that he can be,” said forward Daniel Paille. “I think it’s really hard to do that every night on an 82-game basis, but in the playoffs it really shows what he can bring. I think it’s something special for us to have a player like that.”
Yes, it is.
Game 2 is Monday night in Pittsburgh and Krejci’s stage awaits.Christopher L. Gasper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cgasper.