April 16, 2012

Krejci confident line will have bigger impact in Game 3

By Kirk Luedeke

WASHINGTON, D.C.-- The Boston Bruins held a brisk morning skate at the Verizon Center Monday morning in preparation for their night game against the Washington Capitals. 

David Krejci has three shots and a minus-1 rating thus far in the playoffs for Boston. (Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask suited up and got a nice workout between the pipes during the session, however head coach Claude Julien ruled him out as far as being ready to assume the backup role to Tim Thomas in the forseeable future.

The goaltending has been sensational in this series thus far, with Tim Thomas and Caps rookie Braden Holtby each giving up two goals apiece in the 1-1 split. Both are sporting sub-1.00 goals against averages with 0.83. Holtby has the edge in save percentage with a .973 to Thomas’ .964 but both have loomed large when their teams have needed them the most.

“He’s very good goalie,” current B’s backup Anton Khudobin told New England Hockey Journal when asked about Holtby after the morning skate. “I know him and so he’s been playing great for (the Capitals). Timmy’s been playing great for us, too. It’s a good playoffs if you are (a) goalie.”

Khudobin has a small connection to Holtby.

Both came out of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League in Canadian Major Junior. In 2006, when Khudobin left the WHL for a couple of weeks to represent Russia in the World Jr. Championship tournament, the Blades brought up Holtby to backup Kevin Armstrong while the team’s top netminder (Khudobin) competed in Vancouver.

After Khudobin turned pro following the 2005-06 season, Holtby then became Saskatoon’s starter in ’06-07, playing in 51 of the team’s 72 games. The Capitals selected the Lloydminster, Saskatchewan native 93rd overall (fourth round) of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

“He’s very good on (the) first shot,” said Khudobin. “It’s tough to beat him, so we will see what happens next.”

Krejci  maintains confidence

David Krejci is Boston’s active playoff scoring leader with 44 points, but has been held off the score sheet in each of the first two games. He and linemates Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley have not been able to get much going, but Krejci was confident that things will turn around for the unit.

“We’re gonna have to score some goals,” said Krejci. “But we have to play good defensively.  Even though we lost last game, we were still in the game, and it could have been us who scored in the OT and we would be two-nothing up and everything would be fine. So, I don’t think it’s something we should be worried about.”

Although fans may be getting antsy that Boston’s top scorers during the regular season haven’t found the back of the net yet (only third-liners Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot have scored), the talk in the Verizon Center on game day was that the B’s are in a pretty good situation compared to teams like Pittsburgh and Vancouver, who are both facing elimination and sweeps after entering the playoffs with high expectations.

“It is what it is,” said Krejci. “Playoff hockey is about winning games and not individuals. You have to look at the series of Philly and Pittsburgh—both teams’ fourth line has more points than our top lines, but one of their teams gonna be gone, so this is about winning hockey games and if we’re doing the right things, the wins are going to come as well.”

Kelly proves his value on defending Cup champion

Chris Kelly has never had a great deal of fanfare in an NHL career that until February 2011, had been spent in the city of Ottawa. Even when the Senators traded the veteran centerman to Boston for a second-round pick (Shane Prince), Kelly had trouble making an immediate impact, scoring just twice in 24 regular season games.

However, Kelly became a pivotal player for the Bruins in the first round of the 2011 playoffs, helping his team erase a 2-0 deficit against arch-rival Montreal. In his first full season, Kelly scored 20 goals for the first time in his career and proved himself as one of the more capable three-zone players in the league.

Given that the B’s have struggled to find the back of the net, it is therefore no surprise that Kelly and linemate Benoit Pouliot are the only ones to tally thus far, each registering a goal and an assist in the first two games of the series.

“Obviously, we want to generate more offense,” Kelly said. “It’s no big secret-- both sides are trying to do that. In the same breath, I think both sides have played well in their own end. I think it’s one of those typical playoff battles that’s a low-scoring game. Sometimes, you need to be patient with your opportunities.”

Kelly’s experience helps him to be a voice of reason when others try to draw parallels between where the team was last season at this time and where they are now.

“The same way it was a year ago,” Kelly said when asked about the mindset of being in Washington tied 1-1 as opposed to down two games. “You want to win the first one.”

Kirk Luedeke can be reached at kluedeke@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @kluedeke29.