BOSTON (CBS) – If the Czech Republic is wise, it won’t try to put Bruins center David Krejci on a line with the legendary Jaromir Jagr.
Playing those two together at even strength wouldn’t have worked had the Bruins given it a shot last season, and it’s not going to start working next month in Sochi, Russia.
But one thing that will definitely work for the Czechs when they take the ice at the Winter Games will be having Krejci as their No. 1 center. After all, a world-class tournament featuring the best players on the planet is as close as you’re going to get to a February version of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And it’d be difficult for any center alive to challenge Krejci’s supremacy among producers when everything’s on the line.
Krejci’s playoff exploits in two of the past three seasons have become his calling cards. First, there was his 23-point performance during the run to the 2011 Stanley Cup championship. Then there was the run that solidified him as one of the world’s best players, as he produced 26 points in 22 games during Boston’s trip to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals.
Obviously, even some ultra-productive, super-version of “playoffs” Krejci won’t be enough to help the Czechs finish in the money. The Czechs aren’t nearly talented enough in net and lack depth among skaters. However, that might be why these Olympic games will aid Krejci and the Bruins.
Back in 2010 when Krejci made his first foray into the Olympics, the Czechs didn’t medal. But Krejci’s 2-1-3 totals in five games taught him about how high the ceiling was for his ability to be a dominant player. He matched up against the cream of the crop and saw that he belonged up in that rarified air. An injury against the Philadelphia Flyers postponed by one year an amazing postseason coming-out party that finished with the Stanley Cup’s return to Boston.
Somehow Krejci, helped by linemates Milan Lucic and Jarome Iginla, has carried over his hot hand from last season’s playoffs into this season. Through 42 games, he has 9-27-36 totals. The nights when he hasn’t scored a point have been few and far between, and his slumps have barely lasted more than a couple games. When he or his line hasn’t scored, Krejci and his mates have put the heat on the opposition and given the Bruins a legitimate No. 1 line that causes matchup headaches for the opposition.
Come this February, Krejci will again get to see where his improved game ranks among Earth’s elite. Sure he totally outclassed Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby last summer in the Eastern Conference finals, but now he’ll get to see if he can school a bunch of All-Star teams. He should be able to generate just enough confidence and momentum to finish up the NHL season on a roll that should carry over into the Stanley Cup playoffs and make Krejci again as lethal a weapon as there is once again in the postseason. And since the Czechs won’t be doing much winning as a team, he should play just few enough games to avoid exhaustion or wear and tear. If all goes well, Krejci gets a trip to Russia, enough time to bring his game to a high level and then gets back stateside in time to take a couple days off and then get back to the business of defending the Eastern Conference title.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.