While the rest of Boston wondered if David Krejci still could be a top-line center or a playoff producer, Bruins’ coach Claude Julien never had a doubt.
“I believe in David Krejci,” Julien said Friday during a press conference Friday. “I think David Krejci is going to get better and I think his line’s going to be better in this series.”
Krejci and linemates Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton struggled against Montreal, which raised concerns that something was ailing the Bruins’ top center, or even worse, he was not the top-line center the team needed in the playoffs. That all changed Saturday, as Krejci scored twice and assisted on two other goals to lead the Bruins to a 7-3 win over Philadelphia in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Wells Fargo Center.
“For me, my line didn’t produce that much, but I still thought my line played pretty well,” Krejci said of the Montreal series. “We had so many chances, we just couldn’t bury them. That sometimes happens.”
Krejci, who missed four point-blank chances on Carey Price against Montreal, wasted little time in burying a chance in this series, beating Brian Boucher with a backhand just 1:52 into the game. He assisted on Horton’s go-ahead goal late in the first, and scored what proved to be the game-winner with 4:34 to play in the second period.
It was the seventh multiple-point playoff game in Krejci’s career, and the first four-point playoff effort for a Boston player since Marc Savard scored four against Montreal in 2009.
“I think we bounced back and had a good game (Saturday), but one game doesn’t make a playoff, so we need to keep it going,” Krejci said. “I think we scored good goals. We did the right things, we put traffic in front of the net, and if you want to score in the playoffs you have to do those things.”
Though the Bruins were 0-for-5 with the man advantage, extending Boston’s power-play futility to 26, they were dominant 5-on-5. In addition to the three goals scored by the Krejci line, Boston also got two goals from Brad Marchand and one each from Mark Recchi and Gregory Campbell.
After trading goals early, the Bruins took the lead for good when Horton knocked a rebound of a Dennis Seidenberg shot off Boucher and in with 35.7 seconds to play in the first.
Horton, who assisted on Krejci’s first goal, was not surprised his linemate finally broke out with a multiple-point night.
“He is one of our best players, so they definitely key on him, and he wasn’t on the scoresheet in the first round,” Horton said. “But I think he played all right, and tonight was a great way to start the second round.”
Boston took command in the second period. Recchi scored at 2:34, scoring on his own rebound. Krejci and Marchand scored goals 1:40 apart late in the period to make it 5-1 and send Boucher to the bench.
Moments after Boucher was replaced by Sergei Bobrovsky, James van Riemsdyk gave the Flyers some hope with his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Mike Richards scored a power-play goal to pull Philadelphia to within 5-3 with 6:58 to play, but it only appeared to awaken the Bruins, who put together a strong push. Marchand netted his second of the game at 14:59 before Campbell capped the scoring with 2:01 to play.
“We come off one of our strongest performances in a while, come out and we don’t have a good game,” Philadelphia coach Peter Laviolette said. “That was not the way we need to play in order to be successful, so there’s lots of things that can change.”
(Steve Kendall is a freelance writer with 20 years experience covering hockey at all levels. In addition to thehockeywriters.com, he has written for The Boston Herald, The New England Hockey Journal, and The Worcester Telegram & Gazette.)