During last season’s playoffs, it was not uncommon for the NHL’s leading postseason scorer to conclude his shifts with a slash to an opponent.
The Bruins welcomed every incendiary jab David Krejci delivered.
“When he’s nasty, to me, he’s involved,” said coach Claude Julien. “When he’s involved, he’s at his best. There’s no doubt you want to see that as much as you can out of David. It’s hard to sustain for 82 games. But I think you should challenge yourself to sustain that for 82 games and make it a habit — make it second nature.”
Around the NHL, Krejci is considered a skilled center. His 26-point performance in the playoffs, 1 more than Conn Smythe Trophy winner Patrick Kane, underscored the center’s status among the game’s sharpest playmakers.
But when Krejci is at his best, he plays with bite. If an opponent dares to lean on him, Krejci will make it known, with a chirp or a cross-check, that he prefers his playmaking space. Having a ruffian like Milan Lucic sharing shifts would make any slick center feel bigger.
Now the challenge is for Krejci to extend that intensity into the regular season.
“He does it every year in the playoffs when it really counts,” Julien said. “He does that at times during the year. He’s got to continue to push himself to make sure he improves in that area and gives us more and more of those types of games.”
Krejci has the skill and the surroundings to be a point-per-game player for the first time in his career. The 27-year-old has a fit and motivated Lucic on his left side. Both have the extra motivation of receiving calls from their respective Olympic federations. Krejci is a lock to represent Czech Republic. Lucic faces tougher odds on making Canada’s final roster.
The familiarity Krejci had with Nathan Horton is gone. But Jarome Iginla projects to be a capable comparable as a physical, straight-line, shoot-first right wing.
“I think it’s going good,” Krejci said of his repetitions with Iginla. “Obviously we need a little more time to practice and work on some little plays. I think we’re going in the right direction.”
During even-strength situations, the Bruins expect Krejci to push the pace. Earlier in his career, he preferred to stomp on the brakes to open up opportunities. Now, Krejci’s new linemate sees a center who likes making high-speed plays too.
“I know he’s very crafty. But he can play the game at different speeds,” Iginla said. “He can slow it down to let the wingers shoot by him. But he can also turn it up. Some guys slow the game down because they’re not as quick. He can play either way. He’s a very quick guy, but he likes the game going at his tempo.”
Krejci could pile up points on the power play. His best output was in 2008-09, when he scored five goals and 14 assists. That year, and for most of his Boston career, Krejci has skated on the left side.
This year, the Bruins will use Krejci as the right-side point man on the No. 1 unit. His first-unit point colleague will be Torey Krug. Lucic and Zdeno Chara most likely will be down low. Iginla will be rotating between the left circle, where he can tee up his one-timer, and the high slot. Krejci’s job will be to distribute pucks to Krug and Iginla, the primary shooters.
“I think our power play’s looked pretty good so far,” Julien said. “Preseason is the preseason. Not all the teams have their best penalty killers out there. But I’ve liked the puck movement. I’ve liked the results. Every power play, we seem to at least get something out of it.”
Johnson in the mix
Nick Johnson opened eyes when he scored two goals in the Bruins’ preseason opener against Montreal last Monday. The two-goal performance took place even before he hit the groove of his game.
By Johnson’s estimation, he didn’t feel himself until Saturday night’s 2-0 win over Detroit.
“The first two games, I didn’t feel like I protected the puck as well as I normally do,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of one of my strengths, just moving the puck in the right way. I thought [Saturday] night I was finally getting on the right track, being able to shield it a little better. Camp wasn’t going well for me in that sense. I kept falling off the puck. That’s probably something that takes the longest time. You’re not doing that in the summer. You’re skating, but you’re not jostling around. So I was excited about that.”
Johnson will have to continue being strong on the puck to break camp with the big boys. The 27-year-old forward, signed July 5 to a one-year, two-way deal, is competing for the No. 3 right wing job. Reilly Smith is currently the one to beat. The right-shot Johnson is also fighting with Jordan Caron and Craig Cunningham. Carl Soderberg most likely will be the No. 3 left wing alongside Chris Kelly.
Off to Providence
The Bruins assigned Malcolm Subban, Zach Trotman, Carter Camper, and Justin Florek to Providence. They have 32 players in camp, including injured forward Bobby Robins . . . The Bruins scrimmaged Sunday at TD Garden. They played two 25-minute periods. Team White, featuring the Lucic-Krejci-Iginla line, beat Team Black, 4-1. Iginla, Caron, Chara, and Daniel Paille scored for White. Loui Eriksson scored Black’s lone goal. Eriksson scored a net-front strike after Patrice Bergeron stole the puck behind the cage . . . Ryan Spooner centered Caron and Johnson on Team White. The bosses continue to consider Spooner as a permanent varsity player at center. Spooner won’t displace Krejci or Bergeron. But Kelly or Gregory Campbell might be at risk of being moved if the Bruins project Spooner as a younger, cheaper, and more skilled alternative. “Don’t be surprised if we have to make a tough decision down the road,” Julien said. “A tough decision doesn’t necessarily mean sending him down. It could be something else. We certainly haven’t written that off because he’s played that well.” . . . Bergeron, Eriksson, and Dougie Hamilton were regulars on the second power-play unit. Soderberg and Brad Marchand rotated PP shifts, as did Dennis Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk at the point . . . The Bruins will host the Capitals Monday at the Garden. NESN will carry the game.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.