If not for a brief stop in the action only 37 seconds into the contest, his first shift in the books, David Krejci’s career game No. 1,000 Monday played out like so many of the 999 others.
It was a very ordinary kind of David Krejci day, perfect in subtlety, once again extraordinary in delivery.
Krejci was smooth. He was precise. He was, shift after shift, in the right place, always around the puck, either creating with it or thinking how to create, the way Roger Federer, the Swiss master craftsman, worked and thought all those years he wielded a different carbon stick.
When day was done, Krejci had set up three goals, his name on half of the Bruins’ bounty in a 6-0 whitewash of the Flyers. He increased his career assist total to 538, and only five Bruins over nearly a century have more than that, and only eight others in Black and Gold have collected more than his 764 points.
So with 37 seconds gone by, Krejci back on the bench after taking the opening shift, the time came for the Garden crowd to stand and acknowledge what they’ve watched here over the course of 16 seasons. Krejci’s name flashed on the message board. The arena camera closed in tight. On the bench, teammates stood and tapped out stick salutes on the boards.
And Krejci, with just the slightest trace of a smile, raised his left arm and waved to the sellout crowd for a few seconds. Simple. Quick. As understated, and almost as easy to miss, as all those sleight-of-hand moves he has fashioned for those 1,000 games.
“Right now, I don’t feel much,” he said later, surrounded by a media horde of some 40 reporters and TV camera toters in the dressing room. “It’s obviously a great feeling … 1,000th game and the win, but I feel like it’s a milestone that you’re going to appreciate once you’re done, when you look back and appreciate it a little bit more.”
He will be 37 in April. He has flecks of gray in his beard and around his temples. He is nearly 20 years beyond his 2004 draft day, when the Bruins selected him at No. 63, then steered him just weeks later for a couple of years of seasoning with Gatineau in the Quebec Junior League.
We have seen him grow up with that No. 46 on his back. We have seen him win the Stanley Cup, leading the Bruins in goals (12) and points (23) in that magical mystery tour spring of 2011.
We also watched him walk away in the spring of 2021, saying he wanted to play back home in Czechia, to enjoy time playing in front of family and friends, no one sure, not even Krejci, if he would return to Causeway Street.
“I knew I still had it,” he mused Monday, recalling his mind-set while playing for the Olomouc Roosters. “I’m glad [the Bruins] called.”
For a town that loves its hockey, especially its NHL hockey, it never has shown fulsome, adequate appreciation for Krejci or his game. His numbers — 1,000 games, top 10 in assists and points — frame his standing in the team record books. He has produced, both in volume and elegance.
But, for reasons hard to fathom, and really not fair to him, he has largely been perceived as “less than” in his time here, tucked behind headliners such as Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand and Zdeno Chara and goalies Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask, and in more recent years, David Pastrnak.
It happens, even in smart sports towns, even here in the wicked smaht Hub of the Sports Universe. Exhibit A: Dwight Evans.
Evans, the superb Red Sox right fielder for nearly 20 years, had gigunda numbers: fifth all time here in HRs (379) and RBIs (1,346). He was second only to Carl Yastrzemski for games (2,505) and at-bats (8,726). He could field with Krejci-like grace and fluidity, and his arm was nearly as powerful and accurate as a Pastrnak slapper.
Yet Evans was overshadowed by the likes of Yaz and Carlton Fisk, Jim Rice, Fred Lynn. Who knows why, really? Maybe, like Krejci, it’s because he came from a foreign land, California? Whatever it was, Evans deserved greater recognition from the Sox fan base. But it never came.
“Made me a smarter coach,” said Jim Montgomery, asked how he felt when he learned that Krejci decided in August that he would return. “He’s a hockey player, elite, and makes everyone around him better.”
The primo example of Krejci’s importance to the Bruins came in the 2010 playoffs, the spring before the Cup, when he wrenched his right wrist in Game 3 of Round 2.
By night’s end, Krejci had to undergo surgery, his season finished. When he departed, the Bruins had a 3-0 series lead. A little more than a week later, they were finished, swept out by the Flyers in Games 4, 5, 6, and 7 in a historic flop. Absent Krejci, the Bruins had zero answers.
Krejci on Monday collected three assists, equaling his career high, for the 19th time in his 1,000 games. He dished to Pavel Zacha, who then set up Pastrnak for an easy forehand tuck to make it 1-0. He dished again to Zacha for the one-time slapper that made it 2-0. He again fed Zacha for the 4-0 lead, and it was lights out for the Flyers with less than five minutes gone in the second.
We have seen the best of David Krejci for a very long time, for 1,000 games and counting, and it feels like there is more good stuff to come. He has given Bruins fans everything they could ask, perhaps more than they deserve.
Question remains, will they return to him in kind before he leaves for good?
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.