BOSTON — Something sure felt different here at the TD Garden last night.
Your Boston Bruins didn’t commit the several standard egregious errors in the third period to blow a good thing.
Is that the “switch” everybody has been talking about, the one champions can flick on and off at a moment’s notice?
Even coach Claude Julien reiterated after the convincing 4-1 win over Toronto Maple Leafs — the Bruins outshot the Leafs 40-20 — what he said before the game, that “this is a new season” and “we’ve been here before,” and that the team has put the disappointing finish to the regular season in the past.
Or was it something more obvious, like David Krejci was finally the best player on the ice?
While everyone seems to be overly concerned about several Bruins issues over the last month, including Milan Lucic’s effort, Tuukka Rask’s third period goals allowed, Claude Julien’s obsession with defense, the fourth line, the inept power play and the latest fill-ins/no-names on defense, maybe we’ve missed the ball on the Bruins.
Maybe the Bruins successes and failures hinge on the consistency (or inconsistency) of the Bruins’ most skilled player, Krejci.
At least last night’s dominating performance makes one wonder. The stat sheet said Krejci, voted the game’s No. 1 star, had a goal and two assists. But he was seemingly inches away from two goals and four assists.
Why does he have only 91 goals and 218 assists (309 points) in 424 regular season games? Better yet, why isn’t Krejci one of the top 10 players in the world?
The David Krejci Fan Club was out in force after last night’s playoff opener.
“I go against him every day,” said Bruins goalie, Tuukka Rask. “When he’s on top of his game, he sucks guys in. And then he’s able to give guys the puck in space. And then he also finds ways to score ... He’s a great player, yes, great.”
Julien admitted his first-line center had a little extra bounce in his step last night, which probably had something to do with the playoffs beginning.
“When David is skating,” said Julien. “When he’s intense (like that) and finishes his hits, when he gets his mind set ... His game is turning the corner.”
Honestly, the biggest problem with the Bruins this year has been its ability to score goals. The opportunities have been there, as much as ever. But too many one-goal leads, which should have been three-goal leads, came back to bite the Bruins.
Krejci was a key cog in changing that last night.
He made the big pass to journeyman defenseman Wade Redden, who slap shot was redirected by Nathan Horton to put the Bruins ahead, 2-1, with 11.8 seconds left in the first period.
Krejci made it 3-1, grabbing rebound with his back to the net, spinning around, and putting it past Leafs goalie James Reimer. And then his dropback pass to Johnny Boycheck, who slapped it from 70 feet by Reimer for the exclamation point and 4-1 lead.
Krejci’s influence on this team should not be taken lightly. While he only scored 10 goals this year in 48 games, the Bruins were 7-2-1 in those games. Do you remember the Stanley Cup run, when Krejci tallied 12 goals and 11 assists in 25 playoff games? The Bruins were 8-0 in the games he scored. In last year’s first round series loss to the Washington Capitals, Krejci only scored one goal, which the Bruins won.
Do you follow this trend?
The Bruins are a different team, maybe one of the best teams in the world, when Krejci plays like one of the best players in the world.
You can email Bill Burt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bruins-Leafs summary Play of the game: Toronto's James van Riemsdyk appeared to put the Leafs ahead, 2-1, near the end of the first period, but he hit the crossbar with B's goalie Tuukka Rask beaten. The B's immediately broke down the other end with David Krejci leaving a drop-back pass for Wade Redden, whose slap shot was redirected into the net by Nathan Horton with just 11.8 seconds left in the first period. Key stat: The Boston Bruins outshot the Toronto Maple Leafs, 40-20. Key stat II: Krejci scored a goal and had two assists. Key stat III: Journeyman defenseman Wade Redden had a goal and an assist in the first period, getting the tying goal off a slapper from the left side, which was followed 3 1/2 minutes later by a booming Redden slap shot from the right side, near the end of the first period (it was tipped in by Nathan Horton) for the 2-1 lead. Score four: It was the first time in 10 games that the Bruins scored more than three goals in a game. Faces in the crowd: Patriots owner Robert Kraft was with his son, Jonathan, whooping it up with a yellow Bruins towel during one of the breaks in the action, bringing on a loud reaction from the fans. Next game: Game 2, Saturday, 7 p.m. at T.D. Garden