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.

Bruins ‘just made stupid mistakes’ in Game 3 loss to Habs

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Tuesday’s playoff game between the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens proved an interesting case study on the topic of momentum in a series.

Based on their roaring comeback to win Game 2, you’d think the Bruins would start to roll on their Original Six adversaries. Didn’t happen that way, as the series shifted back to Montreal. The Habs built up a 2-0 lead after the first period – P.K. Subban scored a beautiful breakaway goal seconds after his penalty expired – and led by three goals at one point.

The Bruins did their best to come back, like they had done in the first two games of this series, with Jarome Iginla making it a one-goal game with just over two minutes remaining in regulation. But time ran out on them in a 4-2 loss. The Canadiens now lead the series 2-1.

“I don’t think we played bad; we just made stupid mistakes,” said Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask, as per Chris Johnston of Sportsnet.

Bruins head coach Claude Julien wasn’t particularly happy with his team’s start on the road.

“Our team wasn’t good enough at the start to give ourselves a chance here,” said Julien, as per Conor McKenna of TSN 690.

Canadiens start strong, grab 2-1 series lead against Bruins

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Though they split the first two games in Boston, the Montreal Canadiens blew two-goal leads in both Games 1 and 2 of this second-round series. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday, however, as they won 4-2 in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead against the Boston Bruins.

That’s not to say that the B’s didn’t make things interesting, however.

A late charge comes up short

With about six minutes left in the second period, the Canadiens had a 3-0 lead after an unlikely Dale Weise breakaway goal. Patrice Bergeron gave the Bruins some hope heading into the third period with a beauty of a tip-in tally.

The Bruins didn’t truly make the Habs sweat until Claude Julien pulled the Patrick Roy Special in yanking Tuukka Rask at a pretty aggressive point in the third period. It paid off with a Jarome Iginla goal with 2:16 left in the game, but the Bruins were unable to score again. Lars Eller then iced the game with an empty-netter.

(Some might wonder why P.K. Subban didn’t get a delay of game penalty with 10 precious seconds remaining, though the officials would likely chalk it up to an accidental moment. Still, there might be some who grumble about that moment.)

Subban stars

Really, that late moment just cemented Subban’s big impact on the game. The sensational defenseman got an assist on this great play by Thomas Vanek:

Then he delivered a hit that hurt Vanek as much as anyone else:

… And scored a fantastic goal after the resulting penalty was killed:

Habs played well

The Bruins made a mad rush late in the game, but Montreal was explosive in the first period and strong for most of the game (especially before they started to sit on the lead a bit in the third).

With Subban, Vanek, Tomas Plekanec and other Canadiens really humming and certain Bruins struggling, the Habs have to feel good about their chances with a chance to take a 3-1 series lead if they win in Montreal in Game 4. Boston needs a better 60-minute game to avoid that perilous situation and tie it 2-2 instead.

Murray, Moen in for Habs; Bruins stick with Game 2 lineup

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While the Boston Bruins are primed to stick with the same lineup that won them Game 2, the Montreal Canadiens are making two minor tweaks to their mix for Game 3.

The Habs are moving Travis Moen in for Brandon Prust and are shifting veteran defensemen by replacing Francis Bouillon with Douglas Murray.

At least one indication is that Prust is injured:

Both Moen and Prust are rugged players, so the lineup impact is probably minimal.

The more interesting shift is that they added a lot of beef to their blueline. According to the Habs’ Web site, Murray is seven inches taller and 46 lbs. heavier than “The Bouillon Cube.” At 34 to Bouillon’s 38, Murray’s also a bit younger (though basically his equal as far as experience goes).

Some have criticized Murray for questionable hits and perhaps equally questionable mobility, but he certainly should be prepared if the physicality of this series ratchets up another level.

(Oh yeah, it also shapes up for a battle of Douglas [Murray] and Dougie [Hamilton], if you’re into jokes like that.)

WATCH LIVE: Boston Bruins at Montreal Canadiens (Game 3)

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When you look at the history between franchises, there’s an enormous gap between Boston Bruins vs. Montreal Canadiens and any other second-round series, even with regional rivalries taken into consideration.

For fans of bitterness and hostile hockey, the two historic teams haven’t disappointed through the first two games … and it’s difficult to imagine them becoming chums as a 2-1 series lead is on the line in Montreal for Game 3. The action airs on NBCSN and via the livestream link below.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH LIVE

There could be some noteworthy lineup changes right before things kick off, so stay tuned for updates at PHT.