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Surging David Krejci gives Bruins stability at center

Bruins center David Krejci has at least one point in every game, including Friday night’s win over the Islanders.BRAD PENNER/USA TODAY SPORTS

The NHL’s leading scorer is not Tyler Seguin or John Tavares or any of the never-losing Canadiens.

Through seven games, David Krejci is riding atop the league with five goals and seven assists for 12 points. He has scored in every game. Six of his points have come on the NHL’s best power play, which is humming along at a 33.3 percent clip.

The skilled Bruins center is feeling good about his game.

“Points is one thing,” Krejci said after Saturday’s practice at Boston University’s Agganis Arena. “When the puck’s going in the net, it’s always good. I’m just happy we won [Friday night]. We’ve won three of our last four games, so hopefully we’re on the right track. That’s the most important thing. It’s one thing if you have points. The other thing is to do well and also to do well as a team. Then you enjoy practices. Then you enjoy coming to the rink every day.”

The Bruins did not go through an ideal turnaround. They returned to Boston early Saturday morning. They did not have much sheet therapy before getting back to work at BU. But after a 5-3 triumph in Brooklyn, one that snapped the Islanders’ four-game winning streak, Krejci and the Bruins didn’t mind practicing so soon upon their return.


It was the Bruins’ third win. But it was the one that matched most closely to their preferred template. The Bruins muscled off a 2-1 deficit to score four straight goals, including a Krejci empty-netter. They built a sound perimeter in front of Jonas Gustavsson (23 saves).

While the Islanders carried the pace in the first period, the Bruins strapped on their hard hats and went into grind mode in the final 40 minutes. They played textbook Black-and-Gold hockey: winning battles along the walls, springing traps all over the ice, and creating their offense from stout defense.


Krejci was a powerful presence in the performance.

Like most teams the Islanders face, the Bruins trained their defensive sights on Tavares. As usual, the heavy lifting went to Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara. They did their jobs well. Tavares assisted on Josh Bailey’s power-play goal. But during five-on-five play, Tavares didn’t record a single shot on net.

The challenge the Islanders present, however, is that they spread their weapons over four lines. When opponents deploy their best players against Tavares, complementary centers Mikhail Grabovski and Frans Nielsen have more time and space to do their stuff.

It didn’t work that way on Friday. When Bergeron finished his shifts, Krejci rolled over the boards, mostly against Grabovski. Like Bergeron, Krejci kept his opponents off the scoresheet at even strength.

Last season, Claude Julien went 82 games without such a 1-2 punch at center. Krejci’s groin troubles started in training camp. Then he hurt his knee. Bergeron could not do the job of two men.

“I look at the Islanders as having three pretty deep lines,” said the Bruins coach. “With David out last year, it really hurt us against teams like that. You’ve got two guys who can play against top lines and are consistent players. They’re capable, on a lot of nights, of being a better player or a better line than the other team’s top line. That’s been a big help for us.”

Krejci’s importance is underscored by his usage. He is averaging 19:37 of ice time, second among Bruins forwards after Loui Eriksson (19:38). So far on the power play, Krejci has been the primary triggerman (team-high eight shots on net) from his post on the point.


Krejci’s strength is offense. When he’s skating well and playing with confidence, the puck seems glued to his blade. He pulls it and shields it and protects it, all while sucking defenders his way and stretching plays out for his linemates.

Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, and Jarome Iginla were the primary beneficiaries of Krejci’s touch. All three are gone. Through seven games, Krejci has been the constant between two revolving doors. Matt Beleskey and Eriksson have ridden on his left. David Pastrnak and Jimmy Hayes have taken shifts on his right.

Krejci has gotten used to playing with new neighbors not just from game to game, but shift to shift.

“Maybe it was a little bit of a learning process as well to learn how to play with different guys on my line,” Krejci said. “What I took from it, what I learned, is maybe don’t adjust your game to the wingers. Just keep playing your game. The wingers are going to play their game, as well. Everyone’s going to do their best and not think about different things.”

Julien is still trying to figure out his roster. He’s not sure what he’ll get from young players such as Pastrnak, Hayes, Brett Connolly, and Ryan Spooner. Kevan Miller, Colin Miller, and Joe Morrow are subject to defensive hiccups.


But seven games in, Julien has a good idea what to expect from Krejci. So far, it’s been pretty good.

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.