Bruins need more from ‘KIL Line,’ especially Krejci

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Boston Bruins center David Krejci was starting to develop a reputation for making significant leaps from nice regular season offensive production to elite work in the playoffs. If this postseason’s trends continue, his two breakout playoff runs may instead be branded as anomalies.

A Killer regular season

Oddly enough, Krejci is struggling to score – zero goals, just three assists in eight postseason games – after enjoying the best regular season of his NHL career. Krejci set a new career-high with 69 points in 2013-14 as his “KIL Line” with Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic often terrorized opposing defenses.

Iginla had 30 goals and 61 points, Krejci generated 19 tallies among his 69 points and Lucic produced 24 goals and 59 points. While none of them were point-per-game players, the trio was a real handful to deal with and scored important goals; they combined for an impressive 19 game-winners this season.

You can quibble about Iginla, 36, and Lucic, 25, experiencing their ups and downs during this postseason, yet they’ve been productive. Lucic assisted on Iginla’s 3-2 goal from Game 3 that at least gave the Bruins a shot at tying things up and both power forwards already have a game-winner apiece in these playoffs.

One may even argue that Lucic has been as good as ever in the postseason, at least on paper; the forceful power forward is just a step short of a point-per-game with seven in eight.

The good and the bad for Krejci

So, really, it’s tough not to turn the focus toward Krejci.

While there are some signs that things are getting better, the Bruins would surely like to see more from him. The good news is that all three of the 28-year-old’s playoff points came in the last five games. He provided some optimistic words to CSNNE.com before Game 3, too:

“I feel great,” Krejci said. “I feel like I’ve been skating well and controlling the game for the most part. The puck isn’t going in the net for me, but as long as my lineys are hot – or my teammates – it’s all good.”

As the CSNNE.com piece notes, he’s also drawn the unenviable matchups of frequently facing off against strong centers in Pavel Datsyuk and Tomas Plekanec.

So, long story short, there are reasons to believe that Krejci’s name will end up in the right spots on box scores more often going forward. Still, there’s little denying that his team expects as much and that his critics will only start to pile up if the points start to trickle in.

NBC’s Mike Milbury provided the “KIL Line” with a fair critique after Game 3, for one:

Krejci’s situation isn’t as dire as three points in eight games might indicate, but at some point, he’ll need to break through or face some serious heat … especially if Boston’s overall situation doesn’t improve.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.

 

After ‘great’ senior year, Pens sign Union standout Taylor

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Pittsburgh wasted little time in getting Jeff Taylor in the mix.

Taylor, the Union College senior defenseman who had his collegiate career end over the weekend, signed a two-year, entry-level deal on Monday, and also inked an ATO to join the club’s AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Taylor, the club’s seventh-round pick in 2014, enjoyed a career year at Union, helping the Dutchmen advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33) in 38 games.

Back in December, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin spoke glowingly about Taylor’s last collegiate campaign, saying he was in the midst of a “great” senior season.

“This is a kid we’ve been looking forward to getting since we drafted him,” Guerin said, per the Post-Gazette. “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ And it hasn’t stopped.

“He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”