By Mike Miccoli, Boston Bruins correspondent
Chris Kelly has never scored more than 15 goals in any one of his seven seasons in the NHL. In 24 games, he scored 10 for the Boston Bruins.
The facts could go on for awhile, too.
For example, the Bruins are a perfect 8-0 this season when Kelly scores a goal, 9-1 when he registers a point. Speaking in regards to his defensive abilities, Kelly is a +16, tied for third-best in the NHL with teammate Brad Marchand. He has a shooting percentage of 23.8%, fourth highest amongst NHLers who have played 20 games or more and he’s seen his average time on ice jump from 13:32 in October to 14:45 in November.
Chris Kelly, as underrated as he may be, is actually a very crucial part of this Bruins team.
He also happens to be on the final year of his contract.
When Peter Chiarelli announced that the Bruins had traded a 2011 second round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for Kelly back in February, the reception wasn’t all positive. At the time, the acquisition was overshadowed by bigger things to come such as the Tomas Kaberle deal and, to a lesser extent, the Rich Peverley trade.
Kelly wasn’t overly impressive in the 24 games he suited up for the Bruins in the latter part of the regular season. By scoring only two goals and three assists, Kelly furthered his reputation as more of a defensive-forward. But something happened in the post-season–the points starting coming, and they carried over into the 2011-2012 season.
Few could have predicted the offensive outburst from a skater typically known as a defensive-forward, but it’s happening. Kelly is seventh in points (17) on a team that’s seeing frequent offensive production from it’s players, but is the only Bruin with short-handed goals (he has two of them) and the only Bruin other than Tyler Seguin with three game-winning tallies.
While it isn’t necessarily wise to dole out contracts one after the next in the middle of the season, Kelly has proven that he’s an essential part of the Boston Bruins core. His consistent play on the ice along with his defensive-minded game has helped the surging Bruins reclaim their spot as one of the elite teams in the NHL. Though he may not be a top-six forward on this roster, he’s one of the more solid options on the third line with tremendous offensive upside.
Kelly is a strong presence in the locker room and one that let’s his work on the ice speak for itself. He goes out, plays his game well and gets ready for his next shift. What more can you ask for? He’s consistent and in this era of the Boston Bruins, that trait is highly valued.
Based on his re-signing patterns of years past, Chiarelli extends players important to the core of the team during the season. Two years ago, it was Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask; last year, Patrice Bergeron and Zdeno Chara while this year has already seen extensions of Adam McQuaid along with Krejci and Peverley. There’s plenty of reasons why players like Glen Murray, Phil Kessel, Michael Ryder and Kaberle weren’t extended midseason and plenty of reasons why the above-mentioned were.
Smart money says that a Kelly contract extension is next, though while on his torrid hot streak, the price-point might be a bit more inflated than it should be. Perhaps waiting a bit longer in the season would be wise for Chiarelli, but Chris Kelly is a skater that you’d want to see in a Bruins jersey next season.