David Krejci

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.

Hitchcock going to more aggressive attack for Blues

Ken Hitchcock
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ST. LOUIS (AP) After three straight first-round playoff exits, the St. Louis Blues have learned to temper expectations.

They have been consistently among the NHL’s best in the regular season and realize it is past time to build something for the long haul. The sting still lingers from the latest failure, against the Minnesota Wild last spring.

“We’re all disappointed, everybody can agree on that,” defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “It’s never easy to kind of think about your failures, but we grow every time it happens.”

Management isn’t ready to tear it all down yet.

“We play, in my opinion, one of the toughest if not the toughest division in the NHL, and we’ve finished first or second in the last four years,” forward Alexander Steen said. “So we have an extremely powerful team.”

Maybe a change in strategy will be enough: Coach Ken Hitchcock is back with a mandate for a more aggressive, even reckless, style of play from a roster that hasn’t changed appreciably.

“We’re coming hard from the back and we’re coming hard to see how close we can get to the attack,” Hitchcock said. “I think it’s where the game’s at; I think it’s where the game’s going to go.”

The 63-year-old Hitchcock is pushing forward, too, unwilling to dwell on the flameouts. Coach and players agree that would be “wasted energy.”

“My opinion is when you sit and think about the past, you do yourself no good,” Hitchcock said. “If you learn from the past, that’s when you do yourself a whole bunch of good.”

There were only two major roster casualties. Forward Troy Brouwer came from Washington in a trade for fan favorite T.J. Oshie. Defenseman Barret Jackman, the franchise career leader in games, wasn’t re-signed.

“If you were expecting 23 new faces to be on the roster this year, I don’t think that was realistic,” captain David Backes said. “We’re going to miss those guys in the room and on the ice, but there has been some changeover and I think it’s pretty significant.”

Things to watch for with the Blues:

GOALIE SHUFFLE: Just like last year, there’s no true No. 1 with Brian Elliott and Jake Allen sharing duties. The 25-year-old Allen missed a chance to seize the job last spring when he failed to raise his level in the playoffs.

TOP THREAT: Vladimir Tarasenko had a breakout season with 37 goals and was rewarded with an eight-year, $60 million contract. The 23-year-old winger is by far the Blues’ most dangerous scoring option and said he won’t let the money affect his play. “I never worry about it,” Tarasenko said. “If you play good, you play good.”

NEW FACES: Brouwer and center Kyle Brodziak add a physical element that was perhaps lacking a bit last season. Brouwer has three 20-plus goal seasons and Brodziak, acquired from Minnesota, fills a checking role. Veteran forward Scottie Upshall got a one-year, two-way deal after being coming to camp as a tryout. Rookie forward Robby Fabbri, a first-round pick last year, will get an early look. Another promising youngster, forward Ty Rattie, begins the year at Chicago of the AHL.

RECOVERY WARD: Forward Jori Lehteri bounced back quickly from ankle surgery and opens the season without restrictions. Another forward, Patrik Berglund, could miss half of the season following shoulder surgery.

TRACK RECORD: The Blues won the Central Division last season and Hitchcock, fourth on the career list with 708 regular-season wins, has consistently had the team near the top of the standings. “He is our coach, tough cookies if you don’t like it,” Backes said. “From my experience, he puts together one heck of a game plan.”

It looks like Havlat won’t make Panthers

Martin Havlat

As PHT’s mentioned before, the Florida Panthers stand as a fascinating contrast between youth and experience.

Let’s not kid ourselves, though; fresh faces usually beat out gray beards, at least when it comes to teams that are still trying to build toward contender status.

While it’s by no means official, two Panthers beat writers – the Miami Herald’s George Richards and the Florida Sun-Sentinel’s Harvey Fialkov – report that the Panthers are likely to pass on Martin Havlat.

It wasn’t just about the likes of Jonathan Huberdeau and Nick Bjugstad leading the charge. Other young Panthers (maybe most notably Quinton Howden and Connor Brickley) made the team, thus making Havlat less necessary.

One would assume that it might be tough for the 34-year-old to find work, at least if he insists upon only an NHL deal.

Health issues continue to dog him, but he’s no longer one of those guys who tantalizes with talent when he is healthy enough to play.

Havlat also doesn’t really bring much to the table defensively. While other veterans can kill penalties and show a little more verstaility, Havlat’s greatest selling point is scoring.

Could this be it for a solid career that may nonetheless end with a “What if?” or two?