David Krejci wasn’t quite sure why it happened. He wasn’t able to explain his ability, and his line’s ability, to simply turn it on in the postseason — and why they weren’t always able to do that consistently in the regular season.
It was back in September, on the Bruins’ final preseason road trip through Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Krejci seemed baffled.
As he said back then, “Obviously we would love to bring that to the regular season as well. To be honest with you, I don’t know what it is that the playoffs bring the best out of us. I don’t know.
“Obviously we’re going to try to do it right from the first game of the season, so hopefully we can start off like we left off last year and go from there, I guess.”
He added, “I hope we learn. We have to start playing our best hockey Day 1.”
They have done just that, with Krejci turning in the most consistent season of his career alongside Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla. The dips have been rare. The production has been constant. And now, with the playoffs approaching, Krejci was asked if there’s yet another level for him, if he’ll be able to up his game in the postseason as he has all those other years.
“For all of us,” he said, “the Stanley Cup playoffs kind of brings out from you the best and the intensity from the crowd, from just everything what’s happening around the league it’s much higher. And you realize that, so in the game you really focus, ready to go, but you’re still doing the best you can just like in the regular season.”
It seems like a difficult task for the top-line center, with his game already close to its peak. He has averaged 0.85 points per game this season, far closer to the 1.04 points per game he has averaged in the team’s two Stanley Cup playoff runs as compared with what he has produced in other seasons. In the last three years, Krejci averaged 0.70 points per game (2012-13), 0.79 (2011-12), and 0.83 (2010-11).
He has 17 goals and 49 assists this season, including the goal and assist he scored Saturday in a 5-2 win over the Flyers, for 66 points. That’s the most on the Bruins, leading Iginla by 5 points. It’s also his highest total since the 73 points he put up in 2008-09. As Krejci said, “It’s good for myself. It’s good for the team. So hopefully the whole team’s going to feel pretty good before the first game [of the postseason] and we can make a run again.”
They certainly feel good about Krejci.
“I’m telling you that he’s been consistent as much as I’ve seen him be consistent,” coach Claude Julien said. “In all the years I’ve had him here, this is probably the best he’s played from Game 1 to the game [Saturday] — Game 77 or whatever. So he’s been real consistent this year, more than ever.
“So is he ready [for the playoffs]? We know he’s always been good in the playoffs and the way he’s played this year, I have no reason to doubt that he will be ready.”
It’s not only Krejci’s offensive stats that have improved this season. He has been excellent in all zones, his defensive work helping the team get to the top of the Eastern Conference and helping spring his and his line’s offense. Krejci is plus-39 this season, the highest total in his career and the top rating in the league entering Sunday. He was plus-1 last season, minus-5 the year before, and plus-23 in the Bruins’ Cup-winning year.
“I think he’s still an underrated player,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “When he’s on top of his game, he works both ways and he makes great little plays that a regular viewer might not notice out there. But it’s been great to see their whole line having a good season and having that chemistry, so that should help us going into the postseason.”
In the 2011 postseason, Krejci scored 12 goals and had 11 assists for 23 points in 25 games. He had nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 22 games as the Bruins reached the Stanley Cup Final last season.
“Just the focus and really getting ready for the game,” Krejci said, of the differences in the postseason. “You have to make sure you know exactly what to do once you step on the ice. So the preparation and, obviously, you’ve got to raise the bar a little bit higher than in the regular season.
“I’m just trying to do my best and hopefully we can make a run as a team.”Amalie Benjamin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.