As the weather warms, the battle greatens. As the players rest, the beards grow. There’s the injury report lock-down, video game simulations, “expert” picks and so on and so forth–that’s right, the NHL playoffs are here.
The tradition is like no other. And it’s consistent. Planning where to watch with your buddies, following your superstitions (yes, we all have them), as the big market clubs make their regular return to hockey’s greatest mark on the sporting world. One of those clubs–the unanimous favorite–is the Boston Bruins.
Since the start of the Peter Chiarelli-Claude Julien era, Bruins playoff hockey has become one of those traditions. David Krejci morphing into (arguably) the best player in the NHL (come playoff time) is another one of those traditions.
The eye-test, the numbers, the proof is in the pudding, and coming off maybe his best NHL season yet, Krejci could have a magical postseason in store for the Bruins. He led the NHL with a +39 this season, and started shooting the puck more while maintaining his playmaking ability (ranked ninth in the NHL in assists).
Playoff Krejci is something else. 73 points in 81 career playoff games, he helped the Bruins win the cup in 2011, and get back there just two seasons later. He’s scored big-time goals, game-winners, and even thrived in the Olympics. Whether you believe in clutch or not, Krejci produces at a remarkable rate on the biggest of stages.
It’s hard to complain with what Nathan Horton, now with the Columbus Blue Jackets, brought to the table for the Bruins. Yes, he’s a floater. Invisible for long stretches of regular season play, everybody knows it. And it has been a criticism of his former linemates Krejci and Milan Lucic as well. But man, in the postseason they were good together. I mean really good.
Horton racked up 36 points in 43 career playoff games for the Bruins playing alongside the Czech center. They were virtually unstoppable at times. But now, he’s a Bluejacket. So why is everyone picking the Bruins? Why should Bruins fans be so confident?
Well, they do have the best possible Horton replacement in Jarome Iginla, a Hall-of-Famer, 30-goal scorer and probably the hungriest player in the NHL after seeing his Stanley Cup dreams wash away at the hands of the Bruins last season.
Iginla–61 points in 69 career playoff games–had a phenomenal first season with the Bruins.
The hunger was imminent right from the start. When he wasn’t scoring he was noticeable (unlike Horton), and his work ethic and leadership certainly rubbed off on his linemates. Best seasons or not, Krejci and Lucic were far more consistent than they’ve ever been in their NHL careers, and you can expect that productivity to carry over to the postseason.
A combination of skill and strength, this line brings everything to the table. Their cycle game was outstanding at times this season, and that type of possession play bodes well for playoff success. With Lucic creating space and Iginla’s (quicker than Horton) release, they should have no problem finding the score sheet with that same regular season consistency.
Everything is shaping up for Krejci to have yet another monster postseason. Watch out hockey world.