Quietly, Bruins' Krejci leads all Stanley Cup playoff scorers
David Krejci says with a straight face that he “doesn't even care” that he's never mentioned as one of the elite players in the NHL even though he leads the Stanley Cup playoffs in scoring.
The Boston Bruins center has 20 points, is tied with Chicago's Patrick Sharp for the goal-scoring lead (eight) and trails Penguins defenseman Kris Letang by one for the assists lead (12).
This isn't the first time Krejci has been the biggest, baddest Bruin — even if he tends to shy away from the spotlight. When Boston won the Stanley Cup in 2011, Krejci led the Bruins with 12 goals and 23 points.
“You know what? It's nice,” Krejci said. “I want to say it's nice, but I don't really look at it that much. In the playoffs, it can change the next day. So I just try to stay at the same level at all times.”
His statistics tell a different story.
If Krejci has the reputation of someone who saves his best for when it matters most, perhaps that's because he puts a premium on the postseason.
“It's not always about points,” said Krejci, who had 10 goals and 33 points in 47 regular-season games this season. “I feel sometimes I have a good game in the regular season but I don't have a point, and that's all the media talks about: You're a good player if you have points; if you don't have points, you're not a good player.
“That's not this team. We never had the past few years a guy in the top 20 in scoring, so that's just the way our team is built.”
Where Krejci has averaged .78 points per game the past three regular seasons, his playoff scoring has increased to a point per game in that span. He leads all NHL players in postseason scoring with 46 points in as many games since 2011 and ranks second only to Mike Richards of the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs since 2010.
“He is definitely playing incredible hockey,” Bruins third-year center Tyler Seguin said of Krejci. “He's been known to raise the level of his play heading into the playoffs. I saw it my first year, and I'm seeing it now, definitely.”
‘A smart player'
Bruins coach Claude Julien attempted to explain Krejci's postseason production as a passion project.
Julien calling Krejci “one of those guys that really loves the playoffs and loves the intensity and excitement that comes with it and really gets up for those.”
By doing so, Julien suggested Krejci might be the type of player who gets “bored” by the typical 82-game regular season.
Only to that did Krejci take exception.
“I don't think I'm bored. I'm still trying in the regular season to do my best,” Krejci said. “But once you get into the playoffs, the goals seem closer. Maybe that's why you bring your game to another level, I guess.”
Krejci has scored three goals against the Penguins in the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals, yet they appear more impressed with his high hockey IQ than anything he does on skates or with his stick.
Penguins defensemen repeatedly called Krejci “a smart player.” Matt Niskanen noted Krejci's knack for finding open ice and burying shots. Douglas Murray credited Krejci for going to “small areas” to compete for the puck. Paul Martin said the Penguins need to make sure they know where he is on the ice and take away time and space.
“He's one of those guys who's not that flashy but does everything well,” Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun said of Krejci, a fellow Czech. “He gets the results. He's a really smart player. He's not a flashy one-on-one player, have explosive speed or anything like that. He's more about making the right plays and being in the right spot at the right time.”
Where Krejci's game might be understated, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby won't call him underrated. If the Bruins are about practicing patience, Krejci might as well be their Job.
“The way their lines have played throughout the playoffs, everyone is aware of how dangerous they are out there,” Crosby said. “So I wouldn't say he's underrated. He's been consistent, and he's a really smart hockey player. He finds a way to get to openings and capitalizes on his chances.”
Moves like Jagr
The 27-year-old Krejci is inspired to be playing with his childhood idol after the Bruins traded for former Penguins star Jaromir Jagr.
Not only is Jagr the greatest Czech hockey player but the most famous man in his native country.
So Krejci is learning from Jagr not only about hockey but how to handle fame.
“Obviously, yeah. He was the biggest Czech guy and still is,” Krejci said. “As a young kid, everybody wanted to be just like him. So I can't say enough about this guy. He's been great.
“You learn a lot from him, especially off the ice than on the ice. I never thought I would play with him, but he kept his body in shape for many years. That's why he's able to play at this level at this age.”
Where their personalities couldn't be more different, Krejci, like Jagr, knows what it's like to play in the shadow of a Penguin regarded as the world's greatest player.
For Jagr, it was Mario Lemieux. For Krejci, it has been Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
They scored a combined 58 points apiece in 44 games during the back-to-back runs to the Cup Final in 2008-09. Between the 2011 Cup title and this playoff run, Krejci has 43 points in 39 games.
Yet Krejci defers to them, calling Crosby and Malkin the “best players in the world at this moment.”
Even if he's the best scorer in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“The best players in the world, they're not asking to be famous or recognized or anything, but it's just the way it is,” Krejci said. “They're so good that people talk about them all the time, and they deserve it. That's just the way it is.
“I'm just going with the flow. When I have a good game, people talk about me. When I don't have a good game, people don't talk about me. That's just the way it is. I don't really care. ...
“It doesn't really matter. Once I'm done playing hockey, maybe 10 years or whatever, I'm going to have my pictures, my ring, all the things I've won — and that's all that matters.”