Diving Deep: David Krejci’s Rise To Becoming Clutch Performer

In this edition of the Diving Deep series, we look at one of the most clutch Stanley Cup Playoff performers for the Boston Bruins. Drafted in the second round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, David Krejci has been a core piece of the Bruins roster for over a decade. Today, we look back at Krejci’s journey to the NHL and re-live some of his most memorable moments throughout his 16-year career with the Bruins.

The Early Days

Krejci was born on April 28, 1986, in Sternberk, Czech Republic (now Czechia), to parents Zdenek and Renata Krejci. He played youth hockey with HC Oloumouc U18 during the 2000-01 season. He played 26 games with the club but had limited success as a 14-year-old, scoring two goals and six assists. The following season he suited up for HC Ocelari Trinec U18, the same program fellow Bruins’ forward David Pastrnak would play for years later. Through two seasons with the HC Ocelari Trinec U18 club, Krejci scored 44 goals and 51 assists for 95 points in 70 games.

David Krejci David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
Fellow Czechs David Krejci and David Pastrnak of the Boston Bruins (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

After putting together an impressive season with the U18 club in the 2002-03 season, Krejci played the latter half of the season with the U20 club. He scored four goals and five assists in 12 regular season games with the U20 club. He also played in 12 playoff games with the team, and from a young age, he showed he was a playoff performer as he picked up 10 points.

During his draft year in 2003-04, Krejci played with HC Kladno U20 and once again had an impressive campaign. In 50 games, he scored 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points. He also added nine points in seven playoff games. He then participated in the U18 World Junior Championship with Czechia, posting a point per game through seven games at the tournament.

Krejci Drafted By The Bruins

The Bruins had traded away their first- and second-round selections at the 2004 NHL Entry Draft to acquire defenseman Sergei Gonchar from the Washington Capitals. The general manager at the time, Mike O’Connell, had to work some draft day magic to get the Bruins back into the second round of the draft. He worked a trade with the San Jose Sharks, sending them their third (Thomas Greiss), fourth (Jason Churchill) and ninth-round (Brian Mahoney-Wilson) picks in the 2004 Draft in exchange for the Sharks’ second-round pick.

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The move ultimately paid enormous dividends for the Bruins, as they used the Sharks’ second-round pick to select Krejci 63rd overall. Of his draft class, he ranks fourth in career points with 786, trailing only Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Blake Wheeler. He also leads the draft class in plus/minus with a career rating of plus-166. However, following the selection, nothing was certain about how Krejci’s future with the Bruins would pan out.

Krejci Comes To North America

Krejci was also selected in the 2004 CHL Import Draft sixth overall by the Gatineau Olympiques and spent two seasons developing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). He joined the team in the 2004-05 season and averaged a point per game with 22 goals and 41 assists for 63 points in 62 regular season games. He also played for Team Czechia (Czech Republic) at the 2005 World Junior Championship, although he only notched one assist through seven games at the tournament. During his first season with the Olympiques, he continued to showcase his playoff prowess with nine points in his club’s 10 playoff games.

Krejci followed up his first taste of Canadian major junior hockey with a stronger performance in 2005-06. Again, his playmaking skills were displayed as he scored 27 goals and 54 assists for 81 points in 55 games. Once again, he was selected to represent his home country at the 2006 World Junior Championship. He played a more significant role scoring three goals and three assists in six games at the renowned annual tournament. The Olympiques had a lengthy playoff run during Krejci’s second season, and his knack for coming up clutch during playoff hockey only grew as he posted 10 goals and 22 assists for 32 points in 17 playoff games.

Krejci Makes Professional Hockey Debut

Krejci made his professional debut in the 2006-07 season, playing mainly with the Bruins’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Providence Bruins. He had a very successful season in Providence, scoring 31 goals and 43 assists for 74 points in 69 games. He also played in 13 AHL playoff games and added three goals and 13 assists.

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Although the majority of his season was spent in the AHL, Krejci did make his NHL debut during the campaign. On Jan. 30, 2007, he played his first game with the big squad, and unfortunately, it didn’t go well. The Bruins lost 7-1 against the Buffalo Sabres, and Krejci sustained a concussion in his third shift. He went on to play six games in Boston but was held off the scoresheet in all six.

Krejci Begins To Make An Impact In Boston

Although he began the season once again playing in the AHL, Krejci finally became a Bruins regular during the 2007-08 season. In 25 games played with Providence, he scored seven goals and 21 assists for 28 points before being called up to Boston. He played 56 games with the big club and scored six goals and 21 assists during his rookie season. Krejci scored his first NHL goal on Feb. 26, 2008, against the Ottawa Senators in a 4-0 win. He also got his first taste of NHL playoffs, scoring one goal and four assists in the Bruins’ seven-game series against their arch-rivals and the number-one-seeded Montreal Canadiens.

That season was vital to Krejci’s development as he began to show that he could provide the Bruins with some much-welcomed secondary scoring. In the future, he didn’t look back as he became an integral piece of the Bruins’ offence in the years that followed.

Krejci & the Bruins’ Rise During 2008-09 Season

The Bruins turned a corner during the 2008-09 season, claiming the top seed in the Eastern Conference with a 53-19-10 record. Krejci’s game at the NHL level also elevated during the season as he scored 22 goals and 51 assists for 73 points in 82 games. In addition, he was named the winner of the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award, given annually to the player who goes beyond the call of duty and exceeds all expectations. On Dec. 18, 2008, Krejci completed his first NHL hat trick against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

David Krejci Bruins
David Krejci, Boston Bruins (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Despite Krejci and the Bruins’ strong regular season, Boston fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games during the second round of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Through the two rounds of playoff action, Krejci scored two goals and six assists in 11 games.

That season marked the beginning of a very successful run for the franchise, one that Krejci played a significant factor in. With the free agent additions of Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard during the 2006 offseason and the development of young stars Krejci and Patrice Bergeron, the Bruins had catapulted themselves into becoming a legitimate Stanley Cup contender for years to come.

The Bruins regressed during the following NHL season, finishing in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 39-30-13 record. They entered the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a matchup against their divisional rivals, Buffalo Sabres, in the first round. The Bruins prevailed over the Sabres in six games to set up a second-round series against the Philadelphia Flyers. With the Bruins up 3-0 in the series, Krejci sustained a wrist injury on a hit from Flyers’ captain Mike Richards. He had been putting together an impressive playoff run with four goals and four assists in nine games before suffering the injury. It also marked the turning point in the series as the Flyers pulled off the most unlikely comeback and won the final four games to eliminate the Bruins.

Krejci Leads Bruins to Stanley Cup Championship

Following the devastating series loss to the Flyers. Krejci and the Bruins returned hungrier than ever for the 2010-11 season. Through 75 regular season games, Krejci scored 13 goals and added 49 assists for 62 points while centering a line with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. Boston finished the season as the Northeast Division champions and entered the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs with a first-round matchup against the Canadiens. The Bruins won the series on an overtime goal from Horton in the seventh game of the series, and while Krejci only scored one goal through the first round, he was about to go off the rest of the way.

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While looking for redemption for their monumental collapse against the Flyers the season prior, the two teams squared off once again in the second round of the playoffs, and Krejci came out firing on all cylinders. In the opening game of the series, he had a four-point game with two goals and two assists as the Bruins routed the Flyers by a score of 7-3.

“I try not to think about what happened last year, but in the back of my mind, it’s hard,” Krejci said after the performance. “But I try to stay focused for the game. My teammates helped me out.” He followed up the huge Game 1 performance by scoring the overtime winner for the Bruins in Game 2. The Bruins finished the series in four straight, outscoring the Flyers 10-2 in Games 3 and 4, with Krejci picking up another goal and three assists to help lead the team to their first conference final appearance since 1992.

The 2011 Eastern Conference Final was a hard-fought seven-game series as the Bruins met a robust Tampa Bay Lightning squad. Krejci scored another five goals and one assist through the series, including a hat trick in Game 6. It was the Bruins’ first playoff hat trick since Cam Neely accomplished the feat on April 25, 1991, against the Canadiens. Krejci also assisted on Horton’s game-winning goal in Game 7 to send the Bruins to their first Stanley Cup Final in 21 years.

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David Krejci sets up Nathan Horton to send the Bruins to the 2011 Stanley Cup Final.

The Vancouver Canucks had cruised through the season and won the Presidents’ Trophy. They followed that up by winning the first three rounds in the postseason setting up the 2011 Stanley Cup Final matchup with the Bruins. Krejci capped off his outstanding playoff run with a goal and four assists in the Final. As a result, the Bruins were crowned the 2011 Stanley Cup champions, and Krejci led the playoffs with 12 goals and 11 assists for 23 points. Despite leading the league in playoff scoring, Tim Thomas was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP for his miraculous and record-setting postseason performance.

Krejci Leads Playoff Scoring in Return to Final

Krejci had another successful regular season in 2011-12, posting 62 points in 79 games. However, the Bruins followed up their championship season with a first-round elimination from the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs by the Capitals.

Unfortunately, for the second time in 10 years, the NHL and the NHLPA were in the midst of another labor dispute causing a lockout ahead of the 2012-13 season. During the NHL lockout, Krejci returned to his homeland, where he played for HC Pardubice, scoring 16 goals and 11 assists in 24 games. The NHL lockout ended on Jan. 6, 2013, and a shortened 48-game season was slated to begin on Jan. 19, 2013.

Krejci returned to Boston for the shortened season and scored 33 points in 47 games. Then, the Bruins took on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Krejci was his usual playoff self during the series, including scoring a hat trick in Game 4. The Bruins, of course, went on to play a Game 7 against Toronto that will never be forgotten as they pulled off the infamous third-period comeback after trailing the game 4-1 entering the final frame.

The Bruins rolled through their opponents in the next two rounds defeating the New York Rangers in five games before sweeping the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final. Krejci then added four assists in the short five-game series against the Rangers and scored four goals in the four-game sweep of the Penguins.

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The Bruins returned to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in three seasons against the Chicago Blackhawks. While they couldn’t win the series, Krejci had again put his playoff pedigree on display leading the playoffs in scoring with nine goals and 17 assists for 26 points in 22 games.

Krejci Becomes a Leader For the Bruins

Ahead of the 2013-14 season, Krejci was named one of the Bruins’ alternate captains as he grew into a leadership role with the club. He went on to have another successful regular season with 19 goals and 50 assists for 69 points in 80 games. However, he struggled offensively in the 12 playoff games that followed, with just four assists during the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

David Krejci Boston Bruins
David Krejci, Boston Bruins (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Bruins then missed the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, which set forth a changing of the guard. General manager (GM) Peter Chiarelli was fired and replaced by current GM Don Sweeney. Roster changes went hand in hand as Sweeney took over the team’s reins. Longtime linemate Lucic was traded, and Krejci seldom had the opportunity to play with top-tier wingers for the next five seasons. In addition, then-head coach Bruce Cassidy opted not to pair Krejci alongside fellow Czech teammate, Pastrnak, as Krejci provided consistent results no matter who was on his wings.

With the roster changes, Krejci remained one of the key core players for the Bruins from their 2011 Stanley Cup championship. He, along with Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Chara, were able to help lead the Bruins to another Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2019 against the St. Louis Blues. Unfortunately for Bruins’ faithful, they could not clinch their second championship of the decade as the Blues won the Stanley Cup in the seventh game. Krejci had four goals and 12 assists through 24 games during the run despite playing alongside some mediocre wingers such as Karson Kuhlman.

Krejci Leaves Bruins to Return to Czechia

At the culmination of his contract with the Bruins, Krejci decided it was in the best interest of his family to bring his young children to his homeland. “Since the end of the season, as I have thought about my future, it has become clear that I need to make a difficult decision for my family and I,” Krejci said in a statement. “At this point in my career and life, I need to return to the Czech Republic and play in front of my family, who sacrificed so much to help me achieve my NHL dreams. I want to play in front of my parents, brother and friends. I want my children to live where I grew up, spend time with so many Czech family members who love them and create lifelong memories.”

Therefore, Krejci opted to play the 2021-22 season in Czechia so his kids could experience some of their youth with his family members overseas. While playing for HC Olomouc, his offensive production remained evident as he scored 20 goals and 26 assists in 50 games.

While he played the season away from the Bruins, he kept tabs on the only NHL team he knew. During an interview in January 2022, he seemed disgruntled by Cassidy’s decision to take Pastrnak off of Bergeron’s line following his departure. “Coach Cassidy rarely let the two of us play together,” Krejci told Czech media. “Years later, I leave Boston, and suddenly it is possible. That stunned me. … Now Pasta is five or so games in line with Hall and [Erik] Haula. Strange.”

Krejci also took part in the third Olympic games of his career, as he was able to lace up the skates for Czechia at the 2022 Winter Games. He played four games at the tournament, picking up one goal and three assists. He ranks seventh all-time among Czech Olympic players with 10 points in 14 games.

He also donned the national sweater as he played for Czechia at the World Championship last season, where Pastrnak joined his friend and displayed their great chemistry. Krejci finished the tournament with three goals and nine assists for 12 points in 10 games. Seeing the duo play together sparked rumours and hopes for Krejci’s return to Boston. “It was kind of a reminder that I still have it,” Krejci said. “I feel great. I love the game. When Pasta came, we played some good hockey. That was maybe the point I started thinking, ‘Well, maybe I’ll make a comeback.’ Then the Bruins called. It kind of went from there” (from ‘David Pastrnak, David Krejci and the tournament that saved the 2022-23 Bruins season’, The Athletic, Sep 20, 2022).

Krejci Returns to Bruins

Krejci remained uncertain about his hockey future during the early stages of last summer despite rumours of a potential return to the Bruins for the 2022-23 season. Finally, on Aug. 8, 2022, the rumours were put to rest; it was official, Krejci was returning to the Bruins after his one-year hiatus from the club. The day was the most significant of the Bruins’ offseason. They also announced that team captain Bergeron would be returning, and newly acquired Pavel Zacha was signed for the upcoming season.

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Although it wasn’t known then how much of a factor he would be after missing an entire NHL season, Krejci’s return to Boston helped the team immensely. New head coach Jim Montogomery finally allowed him to play alongside Pastrnak; the results were incredible. With a much more balanced scoring approach, the Bruins put together the greatest regular season performance in NHL history by breaking the records for most wins (65) and most points (135) in a season.

David Krejci David Pastrnak Boston Bruins
David Krejci and David Pastrnak, Boston Bruins (Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

While being deployed on a line with Pastrnak and Zacha for much of the season, the three Czech forwards showed great chemistry and have been dubbed the “Czech-Mate” line. Although Krejci missed some time due to injury, he could still display his elite playmaking skills while scoring 16 goals and 40 assists for 56 points in 70 games. In addition, Pastrnak had a season for the ages becoming just the second Bruins player in franchise history (Phil Esposito being the other) to surpass the 60-goal mark.

Krejci Continues to Climb Bruins All-Time Ranks

Although he missed an entire NHL season, Krejci continues to climb the Bruins’ all-time leaderboards. On Jan. 16, 2023, Krejci became just the sixth player in franchise history to play 1,000 games for the Bruins. In typical Krejci fashion, he fully displayed his playmaking skills during the game with three assists in a 6-0 win over the Philadelphia Flyers. “I think a lot of players have so much respect for him. And rightfully so,” Bruins head coach Jim Montgomery said of Krejci. “He’s a Bruins legend, and he showed why tonight. Makes everyone around him better.”

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His 1,032 regular season games rank fifth in franchise history. He also ranks fifth all-time in assists with 555 and ninth all-time in points with 786. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, though, is another story, as Krejci is among the tops in all offensive categories. He ranks third with 158 playoff games, sixth with 42 playoff goals, second with 83 playoff assists and third with 125 playoff points.

Krejci is a Bruins’ Legend

The Bruins are looking to close out their first-round series with the Florida Panthers. Krejci is still dealing with an upper-body injury that hampered him down the final stretch of the regular season. However, he was able to suit up for Games 1 and 2 notching one assist before being sidelined.

His return to the lineup will significantly boost a roster with so much scoring depth throughout their four lines. Much like a Hollywood blockbuster, Krejci’s return to Boston this season can have a movie-like ending should he help the Bruins cap off their historic season by bringing home the Stanley Cup.

While Krejci’s future beyond this postseason remains very much up in the air, the undeniable thing is that he’ll go down in history as an icon for the franchise. Although Father Time may be catching up with him, he still can make an impact, and some “playoff Krejci” performances during this postseason will only further cement him as a Bruins’ legend.