A hair over the quarter mark of the season, you can probably count the nights that David Krejci has looked like, well, David Krejci, on one hand. You might even only need a couple of fingers to do it, actually.

The Bruins traded Joe Thornton on this day 11 years ago. (Winslow Townson/USA Today Sports)Want to hear something weird?

David Krejci has scored three goals and 14 points in 23 games this season. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

David Krejci has scored three goals and 14 points in 23 games this season. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

A hair over the quarter mark of the season, you can probably count the nights that David Krejci has looked like, well, David Krejci, on one hand. You might even only need a couple of fingers to do it, actually.

With three goals and 14 points through 23 games this season, Krejci is currently paced for an 11-goal, 50-point season. Both those figures would finish as Krejci’s lowest totals in any full season (years excluding injury or lockout shortened campaigns) since a six-goal, 27-point rookie season in Claude Julien’s first year behind the bench in 2007.

Those projections assume that Krejci stays healthy and fails to miss any time this season, too. That’s proven to be pretty difficult in these last couple of seasons, with 35 games missed in 2014-15, 10 games missed a year ago, and an offseason hip surgery forcing Krejci out of action for the Czech Republic in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey this fall.

The surgery — Krejci’s second hip procedure since the 2009 offseason — was a likely reason for a slow start that featured just three assists in the first nine games of the season. For the record, Krejci refused to let it become an excuse.

“I wouldn’t be playing if I was [still] hurt,” Krejci said back then.

It also didn’t help that Krejci’s linemates were what they were at the beginning of the season, which was both a revolving door and a staunch change from the norm he had become accustomed to in town. With Patrice Bergeron on the shelf to begin the season, Krejci’s projected go-to winger on the second line, David Backes, was moved to the middle of the club’s first line. That left Krejci with Ryan Spooner and Danton Heinen on his wings. One was a center and the other was jumping from the NCAA to the NHL. Overall, Krejci skated with over four different line combination in the opening 10 games of the season, so could he really be blamed for failing to develop any meaningful chemistry? And in fact, Krejci’s first impactful presence on his line didn’t come ’til Oct. 26, when the Bruins recalled Austin Czarnik — another natural center — up to his wing because they simply had to.

In just three years, Krejci went from having top-tier talents such as Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton or Jarome Iginla on his wing to Loui Eriksson (a departure he was pretty vocal about this past summer given the chemistry he felt the duo had) to Czarnik, Spooner, and Heinen. Perhaps his frustration — and dip in production — was understandable, to say the least.

(Backes, by the way, is finally with Krejci on a second line with Tim Schaller moved up to the left side of the line.)

And though the chemistry developed between Backes and Krejci has appeared laborious at times since being united on the same line, Krejci has finally found results with points in seven of his last 10 games (two goals and nine points overall).

But there’s been no greater performance from No. 46 than his effort in Tuesday’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Flyers.

Behind a season-high eight shots on goal, Krejci scored his third goal of the season and one that kickstarted the Bruins’ comeback that earned the club a much needed point, and nearly struck for the overtime winner in the waning moments of the three-on-three. Krejci was also a monster possession wise, with an 81.3 CF%, with 26 shot attempts for and just six against at five-on-five play (and on the road against a Philly club that’s been a pretty solid five-on-five team this season, too).

What stuck out about Krejci’s night, though, was the number of shots he put on goal. Krejci alone attempted 14 of the Bruins’ 80 total attempts on Steve Mason on a night in which Mason stopped all but two of 47 shots on net (and then eight of nine of the B’s shootout attempts, including one by Krejci in the bottom of the sixth round). And through 23 games this season, Krejci has put 52 shots on goal and is currently paced for a 190-shot or so season. That would be a new career-high by about 30 shots, too.

This does seem somewhat telling.

With his go-to shooters out of town, Krejci has appeared to put more onus on himself to shoot the puck and create opportunities. That makes sense when the best presence on your wing is a front-of-the-net rebounder like Backes, of course, but it also speaks to the do-it-yourself mindset that No. 46 could have now forced upon himself given the thinned out goal scoring ability on the B’s wings. I mean, the Bruins currently have three natural centers — four if you care to include Backes though I believe the Bruins have always envisioned him as more of a winger-by-design, center-by-necessity type of talent — playing out of position and on the wings. Part of that is because they’re down Frank Vatrano, but also because the club lost so many wingers this past offseason, and of course, all three have skated with Krejci at various points this season, including his current left wing, Schaller.

The so-called fancy stats back this theory up, too, as Krejci is averaging 6.26 five-on-five shots per 60 minutes through 23 games this year after back-to-back seasons in which Krejci averaged just under five shots per game in such a category. In fact, this 6.26 mark is his highest mark there since he averaged the same exact figure in 2013-14, which was perhaps his most consistent year. (Krejci finished that season with 19 goals and 69 points in 80 games and had just two streaks of five games without a point.)

And not for nothing, at $7.25 million per season, it’s sorta what you’d expect.

One of the harsh realities Krejci has been forced to cope with in recent years is the fact that the Bruins can’t keep everybody. Even if they’re his linemates or there’s chemistry to his right or left. Even if they wanted to, too. Part of the reason that’s the case is because Krejci is making over $7 million per season. Krejci is one of only 19 active NHL forwards counting for at least $7.25 million against his team’s cap and all of those teams are either budget teams (like Bobby Ryan’s Senators) or have been forced to move on from players they really liked at one point or another. Hell, you could make a whole roster out of the players the Blackhawks have been forced to move on from to pay the likes of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and even Vladimir Tarasenko’s Blues have been forced to make tough decisions (it might be the only reason the B’s landed Backes last summer).

That said, you obviously can’t fault Krejci for accepting that much money from the B’s front office in Sept. 2014 (I’d probably go do just about anything if you offered me $7 million dollars for the next seven years), but it’s a real thing that’s hurt the Bruins.

But it might be something that Krejci has finally accepted as an inevitability in a tight salary cap world.

If that acceptance leads to more nights like Tuesday in Philly, where Krejci realized that it’s on him — not the castoffs he was close to in the past — to make his line a dominant force, then that $7.25 million cap hit will return to its status as money well spent.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

The Bruins are the fifth-most valuable team in the NHL, according to Forbes. (Steve Mitchell/USA Today Sports)

In their annual valuation list, Forbes Magazine has ranked the Boston Bruins as the fifth-most valuable franchise in the National Hockey League this year, with a value of $800 million.

Ranked behind the New York Rangers ($1.25 billion), Montreal Canadiens ($1.12 billion), Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.1 billion), and Chicago Blackhawks ($925 million), the Bruins also generated the sixth-highest revenue on this list, at $169 million.

As expected with most of these lists, the top five most valuable teams in the league are all part of the league’s Original Six and the lone Original Six not in that group, the Detroit Red Wings, rank eighth on the list.

What’s interesting, however, is that the Bruins had the highest one-year value change from the year before at a 7% increase by any team in the top five, and the ninth-highest among any NHL team in that category (the Florida Panthers had the highest one-year change of any NHL team, at a 26% increase). The jump in value from the year before was accomplished all while the Bruins missed out of playoff gates for the second time in as many seasons, too, although it does help that the Black and Gold are one of seven NHL franchises without any debt to their name.

And behind a sellout streak that’s now reached over 300 consecutive contests, the Bruins had $33.5 million in operating income this past year, the fifth-highest in the NHL, behind the four teams ahead of them ranked ahead of them on the overall value list.

Earlier this year, B’s owner Jeremy Jacobs, who owns the TD Garden and 20 percent of NESN, along with his status of the chairman of Delaware North, ranked 142nd on the Forbes 400 list.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
John-Michael Liles will be out indefinitely with a concussion . (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

John-Michael Liles will be out indefinitely with a concussion . (John Hefti/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins finally broke their silence on the status of veteran defenseman John-Michael Liles, who did not travel to Philadelphia with the rest of the Bruins for their Tuesday head-to-head with the Flyers, during the club’s pregame warmup at Wells Fargo Center.

Out of action since the five-minute mark of the first period of Sunday’s 4-1 victory over the Lightning after a thunderous collision with the Garden endboards, the Bruins have confirmed that the 36-year-old Liles suffered a concussion on the crash and will be out indefinitely as the B’s follow the league’s concussion protocols.

Tripped up by the stick of Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, and then kneed in the head by teammate Austin Czarnik on his out-of-control headfirst tumble into the boards, Liles remained down on the ice for close to a minute before he was helped to his skates and guided off the ice with the help of the training staff and defenseman Adam McQuaid.

Acquired from the Hurricanes last trade deadline in exchange for a 2016 third-round draft pick, 2017 fifth-round draft pick, and prospect Anthony Camara, Liles proved to be a capable third-pairing presence in his post-deadline run with the B’s, and was re-signed to a one-year, $2 million contract this past summer following the buyout of veteran d-man Dennis Seidenberg.

The 5-foot-10 has recorded five assists in 22 games this season, and 11 assists in 39 games with the B’s overall.

This is the third recorded concussion of Liles’ career, and his first since a Dec. 2011 concussion that kept him out of 16 contests.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

Down their two most experienced defensemen and against a team that entered play with the second-most goals for this season, the Bruins found a way to snatch overtime defeat from the jaws of regulation defeat against the Flyers in a 3-2 shootout loss Tuesday night.

The Bruins and Flyers. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

The Bruins overcame an 0-2 deficit to earn one point in a shootout loss to the Flyers Tuesday night. (Eric Hartline/USA Today Sports)

Down their two most experienced defensemen and against a team that entered play with the second-most goals for this season, the Bruins found a way to snatch overtime defeat from the jaws of regulation defeat against the Flyers in a 3-2 shootout loss Tuesday night.

In a nightmarish start to the night given their ownership of the puck and attacking zone time in an opening period that favored the Bruins in shots by a 19-to-9 mark, the Bruins found themselves in an 0-2 hole through one behind Philly goals from Michael Del Zotto and captain Claude Giroux (a power-play goal) scored just 1:32 apart.

The second period brought about more of the same for the Bruins, as it has for most of this season actually, with noteworthy opportunities and shot totals against the Flyers’ Steve Mason. But, still, zero goals.

Without a goal on 30 total shots through 40 minutes of play, the Bruins finally broke through 4:26 into the third when David Krejci’s shot bounced and trickled through Mason’s pads. The goal, Krejci’s first since Nov. 13, brought the B’s within one and broke a frustrating 45-minute stretch that came with nothing to show for their strong effort.

Krejci’s goal proved to be the one that broke the dam for the Black and Gold shooters, too, as the equally snakebitten Brad Marchand followed Krejci’s tally up with one of his own just 1:18 later, and brought the Bruins even at 2-2.

And after a phenomenal overtime frame in which the Bruins and Flyers traded chances — the shots were 6-to-1 for the Bruins but there was no better chance than Giroux’s one-time blast on a 2-on-1 stoned by Rask with just seconds left in the three-on-three, five-minute period — the B’s went to their second shootout of the season.

From there, the Bruins scored just one goal, a Marchand beauty scored in the bottom of the fifth round, but fell when David Backes could not answer a top of the ninth go-ahead shootout marker from the Flyers’ Shayne Gostisbehere.

A shootout loss is nothing worth celebrating if you’re the Black and Gold, of course, but in a way, it sorta is. When you think about the games that the Bruins have lost this season (the two last-minute losses to the Canadiens and Wild stick out in this regard), you think about the points that were left on the table. Down by two and shooting blanks on Mason through two periods, to escape this game with at least one point is practically a win for the Bruins, and that’s one more point that they didn’t have entering today.

Here are four other things we learned in the shootout loss.

Shorthanded miscue, bad luck burns B’s on Giroux goal

It took all of about four seconds for Riley Nash to regret his decision to head back to the bench in search of a new stick.

With Nash’s twig dumped off to Brandon Carlo after Carlo’s stick broke for the second time in the period, Nash thought he had a moment to rush back to the bench when Jakub Voracek’s one-timer went high and off glass. But what Nash did not anticipate (and how could he?), however, was the perfect bounce off the plexi and right back to Claude Giroux, who fed it back to Voracek, and then back to Giroux for the fifth goal of the season for the Flyer captain.

The power-play goal against put an end to a stretch of 16 consecutive success penalty kills by the Bruins.

Officiating was a hot mess in this game

Complaining about the officials is the ultimate loser’s lament. I know this. You know this. We know this.

But holy hell, did the referees tonight in Philly have a straight-up dreadful night.

Not only did the referees fall for a complete flop by Andrew MacDonald on a B’s power play in the second period with just David Backes sentenced to the box for a hook, but when the roles were reversed in the third period and David Pastrnak was tripped up through the neutral zone as both legs were tripped, the referees sentenced Pastrnak to a two-minute embellishment call to negate a power-play opportunity. OK, sure, whatever. Flyer sniper Jakub Voracek was then given a penalty shot chance on a marginal-at-best holding whistled against Joe Morrow. Rask helped silence what would have been a disastrous call against with a stop on the subsequent penalty shot from Voracek. The referees then missed a clear as day slash on Matt Beleskey that honestly prevented what would have been an easy goal for No. 39.  Again, there was no call against MacDonald on this play. Seriously.

Mason continues to stand tall against Bruins

Heading into tonight’s game, Steve Mason was the only goaltender in the NHL to have played at least 14 games in net and have a sub-.900 save percentage on the year. In spite of those figures this season, however, Mason also entered play with five wins and a .930 save percentage in 10 starts against the Bruins, including a 2-0-0 mark and .920 a year ago.

The latter outdid the former Tuesday night, too, as Mason was absolutely dynamite against the B’s early and often, and finished regulation with stops on all but two of the 41 shots thrown his way. Mason would add another six stops in the overtime for a season-high 45 saves, and stopped all but one of the nine shooters he faced in the shootout for his sixth win of the season.

Krejci line puts forth dominant performance

In their second game with Tim Schaller to the left of David Krejci and David Backes, the B’s second line put forth one of their most dominant performances of the season, and outright dominated the puck at five-on-five play. Led by Krejci’s game-high eight shots on goal (Krejci finally scored on his sixth shot of the night), the 59-46-42 trio routinely created positive chances and generated second chance opportunities either between the circles or in front of net. Oddly enough, though, the line’s only goal of the night came when Ryan Spooner took a shift in Schaller’s place on that line, though Spooner did not record a point on the goal.

But the biggest positive to take from the line’s performance? Its centerpiece, of course, and that’s Krejci. As he has in so many prior head-to-heads with the Flyers, Krejci looked like a man possessed tonight, and looked like the Krejci of old in the loss.

And don’t look now, but the Czech pivot has points in seven of his last 10 contests.

The Bruins are back in action Thursday night at TD Garden against the Hurricanes in a 7 p.m. puckdrop.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson
Tuukka Rask will get the start for the Bruins tonight. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

Tuukka Rask will get the start for the Bruins tonight. (Dan Hamilton/USA Today Sports)

In Philadelphia down Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles and against a Flyers club that’s tallied the second-most goals in the NHL to date (the Flyers’ 74 goals scored in 23 games are 11 off from the Rangers’ 85 for the league lead) and put 144 shots on goal over their last four games (two wins and 36 shots per night), the Bruins are going to need everything and more in the defensive zone to pull off a win tonight.

So it’s far from a shock that it will be Tuukka Rask is expected back between the pipes for the Black and Gold at the Wells Fargo Center.

The first goalie off the ice at the B’s morning skate today, the 29-year-old Rask will return to the net after a stellar 30-of-31 effort in the crease in Sunday’s 4-1 victory the Lightning, a game that bumped his season save percentage up to .940 while his goals against average dipped down to a miniscule 1.63. With just one goal allowed, Rask has now allowed one goal or fewer in 10 of his 16 appearances this season, and has been credited with a shutout in four of those 10 games.

The latter figure could have been even higher, too, had it not been for a Victor Hedman goal scored off Colin Miller and into the B’s net with just 2:39 remaining in the third period of Sunday’s win. It was actually the fourth time that Rask had lost a shutout in the final five minutes of play this season. It happened in a Nov. 1 win over the Panthers with 4:35 left in the third, Nov. 17 against the Wild with just 45 seconds left, Nov. 19’s win over the Jets with 2:40 left in regulation, and of course, Sunday against the Bolts.

“Good thing I don’t have a bonus for that,” Rask joked about losing another shutout. “It’s alright, it’s just a tough bounce.”

But bounces have undoubtedly favor the Finnish netminder this year, as Rask ranks near the top or at the top of almost every statstical category in the league thus far, and has done so while playing in all but six of the B’s 22 games this season.

“I just know he’s playing exceptionally well right now and I’m happy for him,” B’s defenseman Adam McQuaid said of Rask’s success this season. “He’s focused and he always has the same demeanor regardless, and that’s the great thing with Tuukka. He’s just the same guy that comes to the rink every day, regardless of how things are going. He brings that calm demeanor into the team and when he’s in net, I think that has a trickle down effect on the whole team.”

“Um,” Rask said with a slight pause when asked if this was the best stretch of his career. “Probably.”

But tonight against a Philadelphia group loaded with scoring — the Flyers rank second in shots per game with 33 and are one of five teams to average over three goals per game this season — the Bruins will undoubtedly need more of Rask’s best.

Rask has 10 wins and a .927 save percentage in 14 career starts against the Flyers.

The Flyers will counter with Steve Mason. In what’s been a down year for No. 35, Mason took another loss last Friday behind a 20-of-23 showing against the Rangers, and has won just five of his 14 starts on the season.

The only goalie in the NHL to have appeared in 14 games and have a sub-.900 save percentage on the year (Mason currently sits at .892 on the year), the 28-year-old does bring strong career numbers against the B’s into play tonight, with five wins and a .930 save percentage in 10 career starts against the Bruins, including a 2-0-0 and .920 against the club a season ago.

Here are the expected lines and pairings for the Bruins tonight

Brad Marchand – Patrice Bergeron – David Pastrnak

Tim Schaller – David Krejci – David Backes

Matt Beleskey – Riley Nash – Austin Czarnik

Ryan Spooner – Dominic Moore – Jimmy Hayes

Torey Krug – Adam McQuaid

Kevan Miller – Brandon Carlo

Joe Morrow – Colin Miller


Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson

In Philadelphia for a one-game getaway from Boston, the Bruins made the trek without their two elder statesmen, as defensemen Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles have remained back in the Hub and will both obviously miss tonight’s head-to-head with the rival Flyers.

Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles will miss tonight's game against the Flyers. (Roy Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles will miss tonight’s game against the Flyers. (Roy Chenoy/USA Today Sports)

In Philadelphia for a one-game getaway from Boston, the Bruins made the trek without their two elder statesmen, as defensemen Zdeno Chara and John-Michael Liles have remained back in the Hub and will both obviously miss tonight’s head-to-head with the rival Flyers.

Chara’s absence, while noticeable, is nothing new for a B’s club that’s skated without their captain for the last three contests, and have since the second period of their Nov. 22 loss to the Blues. The Bruins have allowed 10 goals in 11 periods of hockey without Chara this season, but did record their first sans Chara win Sunday, a 4-1 final over the Lightning. That win snapped a four-game losing streak in games played without the 39-year-old in action dating back to the 2014-15 season.

Out with what’s been called a lower-body injury, Chara allegedly skated on his own prior to Sunday’s contest, and remains day to day.

The Bruins are 1-2-0 with Chara out of action this season, and 12-11-1 without Chara since 2014.

The Liles situation remains vague, however, as there’s been no official update from the Bruins since Sunday’s in-game announcement that Liles suffered an upper-body injury and would not return. Injured on a trip and subsequent and straight-up brutal collision into the TD Garden endboards five minutes into the first period, the 36-year-old Liles remained down on the ice for an extended period of time before he was helped up and off the ice with the help of the training staff and Adam McQuaid.

And not only did Liles slam into the boards with a vicious thud, but he was also kneed in the head by Austin Czarnik on his way to the crash, so the exact extent of his injury — or what his injury actually is, for that matter — remains unknown.

A subtle do-it-all presence B’s head coach Claude Julien can trust in all situations, Liles will be replaced in the lineup by Joe Morrow, who was a healthy scratch for the first time since Nov. 12 last game. Morrow will be paired with Colin Miller on the Black and Gold’s third pairing, while Kevan Miller will switch to the left side on a pairing with the 20-year-old Brandon Carlo.

On a B’s point shuffled about across the board (the Torey Krug and Adam McQuaid pairing is the lone untouched pairing), the 29-year-old Miller played big minutes on the left side when Liles went down Sunday (something he admits he’s done before at different points in seasons for the Bruins), and finished the night with a team-leading 26:40 of time on ice.

“It was good,” Miller, who has skated in three consecutive contests after missing the first 19 games of the year with a fractured left hand, said of his play on the left side in a spot normally occupied by Chara and then Liles. “As a group we did pretty good. I think my partners made it easy on me and we did a good job moving the puck through the neutral zone, not messing around with it too much. I think a lot of this ended up on the left, so as a whole I think we did a pretty good job.”

In the first of three head-to-heads against the Flyers this season, the Bruins will need a group effort to limit a Philly attack that’s scored the second-most goals in the NHL and put 40-plus shots on net in back-to-back contests and six times overall this season.

The Bruins dropped two of their three games against the Flyers a season ago.

Blog Author: 
Ty Anderson