Looking at David Krejci’s postseason brilliance

1 Comment

When the Boston Bruins open the 2019 Stanley Cup Final on Monday night (8 p.m. ET NBC; Live Stream) they will be playing in their third championship series in the past 10 seasons (tied for the most during that stretch with the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks) and going for their second title with this current core of players.

This is shaping up to be one of the most successful eras in the history of the Bruins franchise and the quartet of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, and David Krejci has played a significant role in that success.

Out of that group the former three get the bulk of the attention, and for very different reasons.

Bergeron is the rock. He is the centerpiece of everything the Bruins do and has been as good of a two-way player as there is in the NHL for more than a decade now.

Chara is one of the greats from his era on the blue line, and along with Bergeron, helped make the Bruins one of the fiercest defensive teams in the league throughout the primes of their career.

As for Marchand … well … he is notable just because he is Brad Marchand. Everything he does is notable. A dominant offensive player, a pest, an agitator, and at the end of the day a player that every general manager in the NHL would love to have on their team, especially at his bargain of a cost against the salary cap.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

The member of that group that tends to get overlooked the most is Krejci, but do not sleep on his production and the impact he has made on the Bruins over the years.

Especially in the playoffs.

While he has always been an excellent player in Boston he has never really been one that will put up huge numbers or finish near the top of the league in any category during the regular season. He is an outstanding second-line center that is going to be a 20-goal, 60-point player. At the start of every season you know exactly what he is going to give you, and he almost never lets you down.

You should also know by now that he is going to continue that production, and often times increase it, come playoff time. This season has been no exception.

Entering the series against the St. Louis Blues Krejci’s 14 points are third on the team (behind only Marchand and David Pastrnak) and continues what has been an outstanding career of postseason performances.

Just take a look at what he has done throughout his career in the playoffs.

  • Since the start of the 2010-11 playoffs, the year the Bruins won the Stanley Cup by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in seven games, there are only five players (Sidney Crosby, Logan Couture, Evgeni Malkin, Patrick Kane, and Alex Ovechkin) in the NHL that have recorded more points than Krejci’s 80 during that stretch.
  • He has reached that level of production while getting almost no boost from the power play, where he has managed just 16 points during that stretch. It is almost entirely even-strength production. His 64 even-strength points since 2010-11 are second only to Crosby’s 67 points, with Krejci having played in four fewer games entering this series.
  • He is one of only 20 players in NHL history to have led the postseason in scoring (2010-11 and 2012-13) in scoring in a single postseason. Out of those 20, he is one of just 11 to do it since 1967 (when the league doubled in size from six teams to 12 teams).
  • His 101 postseason points for his career are the third most in Bruins history, trailing only Ray Bourque and Phil Esposito. John Buyck and Rick Middleton are the only other players in Bruins history to top the 100-point mark (both with exactly 100), while Bergeron will join that group with one more point in these playoffs.
  • This postseason alone he has been held without a point in just four games, and only two of the previous 15 games. He enters the series on a six-game point streak.

Whether the Bruins end up winning this series or not, Krejci has been a significant part of the team’s success both this season and in previous seasons. Outside of one dismal postseason performance in 2013-14 when he recorded just four assists in 12 games, he has been one of the most consistent and productive playoff performers in the league and one of the best in the history of the Bruins franchise.

If you are looking at things in terms of just raw numbers his overall postseason performance is pretty close to his overall regular season performance, which makes sense — he gets a lot of points because he is good, no matter when the games are being played. He averages around 60 points 82 games in the regular season, and his postseason average is around 67 points per 82 games. It is an increase, but not a huge one. Still, any increase in playoff scoring from regular season scoring is an impressive accomplishment because goals are tougher to come by in the playoffs, especially when you are not getting a huge boost from the power play. He has also had multiple postseasons where he has been one of the top scorers in the league, including this one where he enters the Stanley Cup Final in the top-10 across the league.

He may not be the biggest star on the Boston lineup, and he may not always get a lot of attention for what he does, but on the list of most significant players in Bruins history Krejci ranks up there with any of them given what he has done on the biggest stage.

STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
• Who has the better forwards?
• Who has the better defensemen?
• Who has the better goaltending?
• Who has the better special teams?

• X-factors
• PHT Power Rankings: Conn Smythe favorites
Roundtable: Secondary scoring, underrated players
• How the Blues were built
• How the Bruins were built
• Stanley Cup Final 2019 schedule, TV info

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Rangers beat Penguins in OT thanks to Kakko’s big night

Leave a comment

Kaapo Kakko looked dominant, at times, against men before he was drafted, including versus some NHL talent during the 2019 IIHF World Championship. The feeling was that he could make an immediate and successful jump from being the second pick of the 2019 NHL Draft to becoming an instant impact player for the New York Rangers, possibly outshining top pick Jack Hughes for the Devils.

A little more than a month into his career, it’s been up-and-down for Kakko, but we might just look at Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins as a breakthrough moment.

Rangers start strong

Kakko took advantage of a bodacious Brendan Lemieux pass to score the first goal of Tuesday’s game, then ended up collecting the game-winner in overtime as the Rangers beat the Penguins 3-2 (OT). You could call it a big night not just for Kakko, but the Rangers’ youth in general, as Adam Fox set up Kakko’s OT game-winner, and also scored the Rangers’ second goal off of a great feed by Artemi Panarin.

Here’s that OT-winner for your viewing pleasure:

The Rangers dominated the first period, ending in 2-0, and credit to Matt Murray for keeping it from being any worse. Natural Stat Trick’s period-by-period graph provides another way of showing how dramatic the bad start was for Pittsburgh:

Penguins roll with the punches, and break a slump

The point’s been made that the Penguins have had a knack for rallying lately, and they did again on Tuesday — just not for the win.

Pittsburgh scored two goals in the second period to tie things up. Maybe the biggest sigh of relief came on the second tally, and not just because it made the game 2-2 at the time. After going 0-for-28 in their last power-play opportunities and failing to score on the man advantage for almost a month, Jared McCann finally ended that drought.

That second-period effort was enough for the Penguins to secure a standings point despite falling behind 2-0 early on, but Fox and Kakko combined for the game-winner.

Kakko is now at six goals and eight points over his first 16 NHL games, while this also marks his first point streak (he scored a goal against the Panthers on Sunday). With that goal and assist, Fox generated his first multi-point game, but the defenseman has already been a quick study (insert Harvard joke), as this pushes his own point streak to five games (two goals, four assists for six points during that span). Fox also has eight points in 16 games this season.

Recent play of both teams

The Penguins will get a dose of the top two picks of the 2019 NHL Draft this week, as their next game is against Hughes and the Devils on Friday. After that, the Penguins play five of their next six games at home from Nov. 16-27, so maybe they’ll get some confidence in breaking that PP drought and at least getting a point with Sidney Crosby on the shelf for an unclear duration of time. Pittsburgh’s record sank to 10-6-2 for 22 points.

The Rangers, meanwhile, continue to quietly build up steam. They’ve gone 4-0-1 in their last five games, five of their last seven (5-1-1) to improve to 8-6-2 overall.

If young players like Kakko and Fox keep improving, the Rangers might just manage more hot stretches down the road in 2019-20.

If there are still growing pains as much as gains … well, at least Kakko & Co. have the ability to make plays like these:

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Lights went out during brief – but funny – moment in Bruins game

1 Comment

The Florida Panthers were on the power play – and dangerous sniper Mike Hoffman had a chance to shoot from the slot – when the lights went out, briefly, at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Now, this wasn’t like the blackout at Boston Garden during the 1988 Stanley Cup Final, when a Game 4 against the mighty Edmonton Oilers had to be replayed in its entirety in Edmonton because of such an outage. In that case, it went wrong for the Bruins, as they had managed a 3-3 tie during the second period of that nullified contest against that dynastic team.

In Tuesday’s case, you could imagine someone, somewhere – probably in Florida – claiming it was all a big conspiracy. For just a moment or two, the lights went out when the Bruins were killing a penalty. This screen grab of Sportsnet’s video (which you can watch fully above this post’s headline) gives you an idea of Hoffman’s location … if you squint a little. Actually, allow some help, as I fight the urge to go full John Madden in telestrator mode:

Apologies to conspiracy theorists, but these things happen. The brightest side is that it wasn’t a situation where a check was about to be delivered, as that could have made for a dangerous moment.

***

That wasn’t the only wild part of Tuesday’s game. The Bruins had a 4-0 lead in the third period against the Panthers, yet Florida ended up winning 5-4 via a shootout. Wow.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Rangers’ Lemieux sets up Kakko for beauty vs. Penguins

Leave a comment

The New York Rangers ended the first period up 2-0 against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday (watch live on NBCSN; stream here) thanks, in part, to some tremendous passing.

Most impressively, Brendan Lemieux sent a tremendous long bomb of a pass, beating multiple Penguins defenders, to Kaapo Kakko, who scored what might have been his best goal in the NHL so far by finishing the play with great moves.

This marks the first multi-game point streak for Kakko, 18, who also scored a goal against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. The second pick of the 2019 NHL Draft now has five goals and seven points so far in his rookie season, and still has two periods to add more during his 16th game.

The Penguins failed on two power plays in the first period, pushing them to 0-for-28. They haven’t scored a PPG since mid-October.

[More on the Penguins’ struggling power play]

To make matters worse for the Penguins, Artemi Panarin sent a tremendous pass to defenseman Adam Fox for the 2-0 goal with less than 10 seconds left.

Pittsburgh’s been a slow-starting team quite often in 2019-20, and in some cases have been able to rally for comeback wins. We’ll see if they can pull off another one on Tuesday, as it’s been a very weak start, and it’s possible it could have been more than a 2-0 lead for the Rangers after 20 minutes.

***

The Penguins ended up rallying back to tie the game 2-2, and sent it to overtime. Kakko scored again in OT, however, giving the Rangers the win. More here.

MORE:
• Pro Hockey Talk’s Stanley Cup picks.
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Penguins meet Rangers on NBCSN

Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Penguins are coming off a 3-2 (SO) win on Saturday – a game they trailed 2-0 midway through the second period. It was their third straight game rallying from a multi-goal deficit. Despite earning the win against Chicago, Sidney Crosby left in the third period with a lower-body injury. He has been ruled out for this game, and his status beyond that is unknown.

Pittsburgh enters this game on a massive power play drought. They have not scored a power play goal in their previous 11 games, going 0-for-25 in that span. The total drought actually extends to the game prior to that, when they failed on their final attempt, so the Pens are 0-for-their-last-26 overall.

Rangers No. 1 center Mika Zibanejad has missed the last six games with an upper-body injury, suffered on Oct. 27 on a hit from Patrice Bergeron. Zibanejad will reportedly not travel with the team to Florida, meaning he is out for at least the next three games. He was leading the team with 11 points in nine games prior to his departure from the lineup.

After alternating starts at the beginning of the season, the Rangers have spent the past few weeks giving chunks of consecutive starts to each of their netminders. Alex Georgiev will get the start in this game – his seventh of the season – after Henrik Lundqvist started the previous three.

[COVERAGE OF PENGUINS-RANGERS BEGINS AT 6:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Rangers
WHERE: Madison Square Garden
WHEN: Tuesday, Nov. 12, 6:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Penguins-Rangers stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

PROJECTED LINEUPS

PENGUINS
Alex GalchenyukJared McCannJake Guentzel
Dominik SimonEvgeni MalkinBryan Rust
Dominik KahunNick BjugstadSam Lafferty
Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerBrandon Tanev

Brian DumoulinJohn Marino
Marcus PetterssonJustin Schultz
Jack JohnsonJuuso Riikola

Starting goalie: Matt Murray

RANGERS
Artemi PanarinRyan StromeJesper Fast
Chris Kreider – Filip Chytil – Pavel Buchnevich
Brendan LemieuxBrett HowdenKaapo Kakko
Greg McKeggLias AnderssonBrendan Smith

Libor HajekJacob Trouba
Brady SkjeiTony DeAngelo
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox

Starting goalie: Alexandar Georgiev

MORE: Crosby out vs. Rangers, injury still being evaluated

Brendan Burke and Joe Micheletti will call the Penguins-Rangers showdown from Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. Paul Burmeister will anchor studio coverage with analysts Keith Jones and Patrick Sharp.