Three weeks ago, doom and gloom enveloped TD Garden.
The Boston Bruins suffered their third straight loss at the hands of the Ottawa Senators on December 27. To make matters worse, center David Krejci left that game with what was later termed an upper-body injury. Coach Claude Julien put his recovery timetable as “week-to-week”, which had Bruins Nation fearing the worst.
Cam Neely just told Felger & Mazz during his weekly 98.5 The Sports Hub call-in that David Krejci will be in the lineup tonight. #NHLBruins
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 21, 2016
Well fear not Black and Gold brethren, Thursday night marked the return of Krejci to Boston’s lineup after missing 10 games. Through all the ups-and-downs in that span, things remained pretty consistent for the Bruins as they held their own in the absence of their top-six center.
Where Did/Do They Stand?
On December 28, Boston sat with a record of 19-12-4, good for 42 points and the first wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Better yet, they sat just two points out of first place in the Atlantic Division after rapidly gaining ground on the Montreal Canadiens. However as mentioned earlier, they had lost their three previous games and were in a rut.
Three weeks later, things look almost identical. The Bruins are now 24-17-5, good for 53 points. They have maintained a wild card position and sit four points back of the streaky Florida Panthers. After winning 12 straight, the Cats have now lost four in a row and falling back to the pack. Tampa Bay is coming in hot, winners of straight while the Canadiens have found themselves on the outside looking in for the first time all season.
Therrien still employed, Galchenyuk still on Desharnais' wing. I can't believe how pathetic the Canadiens have become.
— Andrew Berkshire (@AndrewBerkshire) January 21, 2016
Not like Bruins fans don’t mind their demise.
All in all, the Black and Gold went 5-4-1 in Krejci’s absence and did enough to protect their playoff position in time for their dynamic playmaker to return. Furthermore, they went 4-1-1 in their six games against the Atlantic Division.
If there’s one person that is “unhappy” about Krejci’s return, it has to be Ryan Spooner.
Boston’s second-round pick in 2010 saw a promotion to the second line playing alongside Loui Eriksson and Matt Beleskey. His average ice time increased by over two-and-a-half minutes per game (17:17 in those 10 games) and reaped the benefits by posting a team-high 11 points (two goals, nine assists). Now that Krejci is back, Spooner is likely to find himself back centering the third line but will take some valuable lessons away from his time in the top-six along with an infusion of confidence.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to find Patrice Bergeron as one of the players who upped his game as well. The lifelong Bruin scored six of Boston’s 29 goals in the last 10 games and eight points overall. He is on a roll right now as he leads the B’s in goals (18) and points (41) and playing arguably some of the best hockey in his 12-year career in Boston. His linemate, Brad Marchand, played a massive role in securing a hard-fought two points against Toronto last weekend with his first goal in 12 games.
He picked a good time to score as it turned out to be the game-winner.
Depth was on full display as well. Jimmy Hayes scored five goals in Krejci’s 10-game absence from the bottom-six while David Pastrnak’s return from a broken foot has paid immediate dividends with three points in his four games back.
As if Krejci’s return to the lineup wasn’t good enough, the Bruins find themselves playing with confidence after three straight wins against Atlantic Division foes. However, a 4-2 loss against Vancouver Thursday night put an end to that streak. Boston’s remaining three games before the All-Star Break are against Columbus, Philadelphia and Anaheim. In theory, these are all winnable games. Having Krejci back during the latest of the club’s hot streaks bodes well for a team playing with confidence.
On Thursday night, the Czech playmaker was joined by Eriksson and Pastrnak on the top line while Spooner saw time with Hayes and Beleskey. Even though it’s one game, it’s not ideal to have a player with Spooner’s speed playing alongside two not-so-graceful skaters especially after his impressive play in Krejci’s absence.
Nevertheless, Julien will be thrilled to have his one-two punch in Bergeron and Krejci back down the middle. It’s perfect timing for a club that needs all the healthy bodies they can get to prepare for a sprint to the finish line come April.
Joe is a writer covering the Boston Bruins. He is a lifelong native of Massachusetts and is currently a content writer/manager for a newsletter at a Human Services Agency. Joe can be found on Twitter: @JoeCherryTHW