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MATT PORTER

A conversation with David Krejci about creativity and different shades of playmaking brilliance

David Krejci (center) knows on-ice wizardry when he sees it — and he sees it in David Pastrnak (right).
David Krejci (center) knows on-ice wizardry when he sees it — and he sees it in David Pastrnak (right).(chris o’meara/AP)

David Krejci appreciates skill and creativity, the ability to think the attacking side of the game in unexpected ways. Not just in hockey, either.

The Bruins center, a soccer devotee, is a fan of several international teams. He likes to see different shades of playmaking brilliance. He seeks Paris Saint-Germain matches for Neymar, Juventus for Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona for Leo Messi, Manchester United for Paul Pogba.

“The best players in the world,” he said. “When they’re on, I watch them.”

In his profession, Krejci has played with a few who thought and acted several moves ahead of the rest. In an October conversation on the topic, he mentioned Marc Savard, whose nickname (“Savvy”) fit his style of play. Among his present-day teammates, Krejci has enjoyed watching Brad Marchand develop into one of the game’s top offensive wingers.

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But one teammate stands out for creativity.

“Pasta,” he said, referring to Czech countryman David Pastrnak, who as of Wednesday was tied for second in the NHL in goals (21).

“What he can do with his hockey sense, with his skills . . . ” said Krejci. “When you watch a hockey game, it looks easy on TV. You think, yeah, I want to do that, too. But you wouldn’t. You would get on the ice and it wouldn’t even cross your mind.

“He has those moves and he can pull them off. He has the confidence to do it. His no-look passes are unbelievable. He’s not just a shooter. He can make a play, too.”

For as long as Patrice Bergeron and Jake DeBrusk remain sidelined by injury (and maybe longer), Krejci will enjoy life centering Marchand and Pastrnak. No disrespect to DeBrusk, with whom he found chemistry over the last season and change, or the rotating cast of wings the Bruins have used this season opposite the pair.

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But feeding off Marchand and Pastrnak is more fun than trying to feed Joakim Nordstrom, Ryan Donato, Anders Bjork, and Danton Heinen — able forwards, but each discounted in some area, be it speed, agility, stick skills, boldness, experience, or processing power.

That’s not to say Krejci was discontented. The highest-paid Bruins forward (AAV: $7.25 million) accepted the responsibility of driving the second line, a veteran’s role on a team laden with unproven wings.

The earlier conversation about Pastrnak led to this question:

Who is the most creative player Krejci, 32, has ever seen?

“Pavel Datsyuk,” he said. “That guy was so much fun to watch. The puck was glued to his tape. He’s got good reach, good lateral mobility, the edgework, the stickhandling . . .”

Krejci’s appreciation for the Russian legend led to one of his most memorable games. After the Bruins were eliminated from the playoffs last May, the Czechs asked Krejci and Pastrnak to suit up for the World Championships. Krejci hadn’t played for his country since the 2014 Olympics, and had never skated internationally with his young Bruins teammate.

Plus, they would debut against Russia, a fierce rival — with the prospect of seeing Datsyuk, then 39, perform his wizardry up close.

“We showed up in the morning after a long flight, few days with no skating,” Krejci said. “Me and Pasta had to make a decision: Do we play the game? I didn’t feel like it, to be honest, because I didn’t sleep on the plane. I had a two-hour nap and that was it, in the last 48 hours.

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“He was the reason. I didn’t know if I was going to play against him again.”

How did they do?

“We destroyed him,” Krejci said with a smile equal parts proud and sheepish. “Me and Pasta. Won, 4-3, in overtime. Pasta had two goals. I had a goal and three assists.

“It was all adrenaline. Sometimes when you have no sleep like that, you just go and make it happen. We made mistakes in the game, but we had the green light.

“Czech and Russia is a big deal. We got the win. The biggest reason why I suited up for the game was Datsyuk.”

There are players stateside who give him that kind of buzz. Connor McDavid, whom he has seen twice. Nathan MacKinnon. Rasmus Dahlin, too.

“You can tell he’s going to be a stud in this league,” Krejci said of the Buffalo rookie. “His edgework, his ability to separate himself from the boards. Forwards have to be on their toes, go at him, or he’ll make you look silly.”

Those were three Krejci named. There are many more. The first one he mentioned?

“[Sidney] Crosby.”

Bruins at Penguins on Friday. Krejci should be well-rested, and ready.


Follow Matt Porter on Twitter at @mattyports