David Krejci was lining up for an offensive-zone faceoff, head down and stick hovering above the ice, when the TD Garden videoboard recognized his milestone in the first period.
That was probably OK with him.
“It’s a good number, but it’s just a number,” the veteran center said before playing in his 900th game as a Bruin on Saturday, an accomplishment that drew warm applause from the crowd. “Once I’m done I’ll look back and appreciate all these little things.”
Krejci, who stands 13-26—39 in 50 games this season, is the seventh Bruin to hit 900 games. All the others, including teammates Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara, reached 1,000 in Black and Gold. If Krejci stays healthy, he has a chance at reaching that mark by next spring.
“We’re getting older, that’s what it means,” said netminder Tuukka Rask, who arrived in Boston a year after Krejci’s 2006-07 debut. “It’s not very often that it happens, the same core group of guys are together [that many] years. It’s been a big part of our organization, these building blocks, and we keep adding around them.”
We are watching one of the best centers in this franchise’s long history. His ability to slow down the play, handle the puck, and slip a perfect pass to an open man, plus an accurate shot, has Krejci eighth among Bruins in points (682) and assists (475). Only Phil Esposito (1,012) and Bergeron (861) have outscored him at his position. Krejci twice led the league in playoff scoring, on teams that made the Stanley Cup Final (the 2011 winners, and ’13).
That’s what sticks with Montreal coach Claude Julien, who took over the Bruins in Krejci’s first full season (2007-08).
“Shows what kind of player he is,” Julien said. “In David’s case, he’s always had to play with the Bergerons and [Brad] Marchands, and now [David] Pastrnak. He often slides under the radar. But he’s an unbelievable player. If it wasn’t for some of those other guys — I think he’s appreciated, but there’s no doubt he’d be more noticed than he is right now.”
Krejci’s contract, costing the Bruins $7.25 million against the cap, is the priciest on the team. It was fair market value when he signed it in September 2014. Krejci was in his prime (27), averaging 0.70 points per game the previous six seasons, and was durable (he missed 13 games in that stretch).
His deal runs out at the end of next season. He will be 36.
Sentimentality about milestones, his career, or the future? He’ll leave that to others.
Krejci was Pastrnak’s hero growing up, particularly when he competed for their native Czech Republic in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics.
“For me as a kid, [Jaromir] Jagr wasn’t my style of player,” Pastrnak said in a quiet moment after practice on Friday. “There were a lot of guys who loved Jags, for me it was always [Krejci], and [Ales] Hemsky and [Jiri] Hudler. Smaller guys with great playmaking ability. As a kid I was never a scorer. I always wanted to make plays. I still do.”
Pastrnak leads the league in goals (42). As a nervous rookie six years ago, he was trying to set up Krejci.
“I wanted to pass to him so he could score,” Pastrnak said. “I felt a lot of pressure because I wanted to stay on his line. I really wanted him to like me and the way I play.”
When Pastrnak scored his first goal, Jan. 10, 2015, at Philadelphia, encouragement from Krejci meant the world to him.
“He came up to me and said, ‘Now you know you can score in this league,’ ” Pastrnak said. “That’s when all the pressure fell down.”
He got another in that game, off a Krejci assist. Cutting into the zone, Pastrnak dropped it to his linemate and got open. Krejci did the rest. He cut wide and found Pastrnak at the far post, threading a pass through a tangle of sticks.
“It was a classic Krecho play,” Pastrnak recalled, “but a big moment for me.”
They have become friends, sometimes teaming up on the same line, often hanging out on the road. Pastrnak cherishes those moments, his hero becoming a teammate.
They don’t spend much time together in the summer because Krejci, his wife, and two children have a home in South Carolina, and Pastrnak spends his time in the Czech Republic and Sweden.
But next summer, Pastrnak’s older brother, Jakub, is getting married. Krejci plans to attend.
Coyle comes through
Charlie Coyle (five shots, four hits, terrific possession work, and a goal in 16:39) continues to make good on the six-year, $31.5 million extension he signed in November . . . Linemate Danton Heinen, who drew a penalty in the 4-1 win over the Red Wings, picked up his first point since Jan. 21. He was scratched three times from Feb. 4-8 . . . Jeremy Lauzon, a day after signing the first one-way contract of his young career, said it was a bit of a surprise to learn of the contract talks between Don Sweeney and his agent, Pat Brisson, that began a couple of weeks ago. “Pretty excited, pretty honored, and really proud,” he said. He was returning from a two-game suspension for checking Arizona’s Derek Stepan in the head last Saturday. He was not shy in his return, dishing out three hits and blocking two shots (with an interference penalty) in 16:56 . . . Jaroslav Halak will start Sunday against the Rangers in Manhattan.