Is David Krejci providing this year’s answer to Danny Briere’s 2010 playoff run?

As time goes on, great playoff performances tend to get lost in the shuffle if those players fail to win the Conn Smythe Trophy. As great as Cam Ward was in the Carolina Hurricanes’ 2006 Stanley Cup run, Eric Staal and Rod Brind’Amour were also worthy of plenty of accolades (although Chris Pronger’s incredible work might have been the biggest story of that playoff year).

In most cases, the leading scorer of the playoff gets the majority of the attention. Yet if the ranks don’t change at the top once the 2011 Stanley Cup finals conclude, the leading point getter might slip a bit under the radar just like last year.

David Krejci’s underrated run

David Krejci has been outstanding in these playoffs, creating great chances whether it has been Rich Peverley, Mark Ryder or Nathan Horton skating on his line with Milan Lucic. Krejci is currently the leading scorer in the 2011 playoffs, scoring 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points. Henrik Sedin ranks in second place with 21 points (two goals and 19 assists).

Despite being a consistent threat on offense (and scoring some huge goals), Krejci has rarely been given a whole lot of credit for Boston’s success. Most of the focus is on Tim Thomas’ outstanding netminding, Zdeno Chara’s hydration issues and leadership savvy along with the health of forwards such as Patrice Bergeron and Horton. Yet with all that attention going in different directions, Krejci has been the catalyst of one of the most dangerous lines in the postseason. Ever since he exacted revenge on the over-matched Philadelphia Flyers for Mike Richards’ injurious hit in last year’s second round, Krejci has been on a whole other level … even if most of the hockey world hasn’t been paying much attention.

Danny Briere’s accomplishments also received less hype

Perhaps this story is just following patterns established last season, though. While Jonathan Toews received the Conn Smythe Trophy, Patrick Kane gained the glory of scoring the Cup-winning goal and Chris Pronger generated MVP attention of his own, Danny Briere “quietly” scored an outstanding 30 points* to lead the playoffs. Like Krejci, Briere was a known talent who wasn’t expected to flourish as much as he did on the game’s largest stage. (They did more than just set up goals, too; Briere finished in second place with 12 goals while Krejci’s 11 leads the playoffs at the moment.)

Now, it’s quite possible that Krejci will see one (or both) of the Sedin twins or Ryan Kesler pass him by between Game 6 and a possible Game 7. It’s also fair to say that he hasn’t been the league leader for very long, so maybe it’s reasonable that his accomplishments haven’t been trumpeted very often.

Greater plaudits will come if Krejci maintains his success next season

Much like the belated praise Briere received after continuing his great postseason work in this year’s playoffs, Krejci is likely to receive more attention if he keeps it going. The Boston Bruins would certainly love to see that happen, too.

* Should we be worried that Briere scored 30 points in 23 games while Krejci’s league-leading 22 points came in 23 games as well? Maybe, but I would chalk up some of the disparity to the very low scoring games in Vancouver compared to a rather run-and-gun series between the Blackhawks and Flyers in 2010.

What is Alex Galchenyuk’s future in Montreal?

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Alex Galchenyuk is already a good player.

The question for the Montreal Canadiens is, can he be great?

Galchenyuk, the third overall draft pick in 2012, is coming off a decent regular season with 17 goals and 27 assists in 61 games. However, it wasn’t as good as last year’s 30-goal campaign, and he didn’t score a single goal in the playoffs.

“Hopefully he took a step back this year so he can take two forward next year,” GM Marc Bergevin said Monday at the Canadiens’ season-ending press conference.

Three assists were all Galchenyuk could manage in six games against the Rangers. More importantly, after more than 300 NHL games of experience, the 23-year-old is still not an everyday center, on a team where center depth is by far the biggest concern.

Habs defenseman Shea Weber thinks Galchenyuk still has a ton of potential.

“I think we’ve seen glimpses of it,” Weber said, per NHL.com’s Arpon Basu, “but I don’t think he’s tapped into how good he can be. One day he’s going to realize it, like all young guys do, he’s going to get it.”

Of course, not all young guys do get it. And at times, there have been questions about Galchenyuk’s competitiveness.

To play center in the NHL, you have to compete all over the ice.

“Ideally, we would love to have him play center,” head coach Claude Julien said. “But I think he realizes the same thing we realize right now. As a centerman, it’s one of the toughest jobs there is because you have to be all over the ice, and you’ve got to be able to skate. As a centerman, you have to be good at both ends of the ice, and you have to be responsible. Right now, he’s not at that stage.”

The kicker in all this is that Galchenyuk can become a restricted free agent this summer. He’s already signed one bridge deal, and he’s at the age now where many young stars sign for big money and a long term.

So, does he want to sign long term in Montreal?

He ducked the question today.

“My season just ended a couple of days ago,” Galchenyuk told reporters. “I honestly didn’t give it too much of a thought yet.”

Kunitz cleared for contact, available for start of Caps series

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The Pens may get back one of their most veteran skaters for their second-round series against Washington.

Chris Kunitz, who missed the last five regular season games and all of Pittsburgh’s Round 1 win over Columbus, has been cleared for contact (per the Tribune-Review) and could return from his lower-body ailment for Thursday’s opener at Verizon.

Kunitz, 37, finished the year with nine goals and 29 points in 71 games, averaging 15:31 TOI per night. It was a down season offensively, but the Pens are hopeful he can reclaim some of the form shown last spring, when he racked up 12 points in 24 games en route to the title.

A three-time Cup winner, Kunitz skated on the fourth line at today’s practice with Matt Cullen and Tom Kuhnackl.

In other health news, the Pens also declared d-man Chad Ruhwedel a game-time decision for Thursday, after he was sidelined with an upper-body injury. Carl Hagelin, out with a lower-body ailment, has continued skating and head coach Mike Sullivan said the team is hopeful Hagelin can play at some point against Washington.

DeBoer praises ‘courageous’ Thornton for playing with torn ACL, MCL (Updated)

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In a fairly stunning admission on Monday, Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer told reporters that Joe Thornton played in four of San Jose’s six playoff games versus Edmonton with a significant knee injury.

Thornton, who was hurt against Vancouver late in the regular season, suffered tears to both his left MCL and ACL.

“I’ve never seen a guy play with a torn MCL and ACL,” DeBoer said, per the club’s Twitter account. “It’s a courageous effort as I’ve ever seen.”

Thornton, 37, missed the first two games of the series to rest his knee, before suiting up for the final four. He averaged 18:50 TOI per night and finished with a pair of assists, numbers that are pretty remarkable given the severity of his ailment.

Jumbo wasn’t the only unhealthy Shark during the first-round playoff ouster. Logan Couture‘s face/mouth injury was well-documented and, today, DeBoer also revealed that Tomas Hertl was playing with a broken foot, and Patrick Marleau with a broken thumb.

Looking ahead, Thornton’s knee injury might cloud what’s an already murky future. He’s a pending UFA, and there have been no clear signals from the organization on how they’ll address his potential return. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun reported in January the Thornton camp was looking for a three-year deal.

If there’s a silver lining here, it’s that Sharks GM Doug Wilson has time on his side. It’s understood the club probably wouldn’t act on an extension for Thornton until after the June expansion draft, which could give the Sharks enough time to better gauge his health.

Update:

Per NBC Sports California, Wilson confirmed Thornton is undergoing surgery today to repair the ligaments.

 

 

Online bookmaker: Caps are Stanley Cup favorites

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The Washington Capitals got a bit of a scare in the first round, but they’ll go into the second round as the Stanley Cup favorites.

Per online bookmaker Bovada, here is the full list of Stanley Cup odds for the eight remaining teams:

Washington Capitals   7/2
Pittsburgh Penguins    17/4
Anaheim Ducks             11/2
Edmonton Oilers          11/2
St. Louis Blues              13/2
Nashville Predators     7/1
New York Rangers       8/1
Ottawa Senators           10/1

The Chicago Blackhawks entered the postseason as 4/1 Cup favorites at Bovada. Of course, the ‘Hawks were then swept by the Preds, who’ve gone from 25/1 long shots to 7/1 heading into their series with the Blues.

The Caps’ odds actually dropped to 13/2 after they fell behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, 2-1. But three straight wins, two in overtime, clinched them a spot against the Penguins in the second round.

The Ottawa Senators are the long shots of the bunch now, despite having home-ice advantage over the Rangers in the second round.