THE BRUINS are intent on turning the page after becoming just the third NHL team to squander a 3--0 playoff lead. The pivotal moment of Boston's second-round collapse against Philadelphia: the crushing, wrist-dislocating hit that Flyers captain Mike Richards laid on one of the league's most underrated players, David Krejci, in Game 3. On a team with Marc Savard, a sublime passer, and Patrice Bergeron, an Olympic gold medalist, Krejci, the third center, is the Boston bellwether. He is a creative playmaker and dedicated checker, a get-well-card player who cheers up practically everybody. After he went down, the Bruins scored eight goals in four straight losses to Philly.
The Boston attack will need Krejci in 2010--11. After ranking second in the NHL in scoring the previous year, the Bruins plummeted to 30th last season, due in part to a raft of injuries, as well as a curious lack of finish. According to their internal statistics, they had roughly the same number of scoring opportunities as during their goalfest season. "The chances came," says coach Claude Julien. "It's a question of bearing down and finishing."
With the additions of potential 35-goal winger Nathan Horton, acquired from the Panthers in June, and Tyler Seguin, the No. 2 draft pick who will play the wing because of the logjam at center, it's unlikely Boston will spend the next six months fumbling around the offensive zone. Krejci, whose production dipped by five goals last season before he rebounded with a strong (preinjury) playoff, also must return to the form he showed during 2008--09, when he finished second on the team with 73 points. With the news last month that Savard is suffering from postconcussion syndrome, Krejci takes on an even more pivotal role.
"We need him on his game," Julien says of Krejci, who underwent surgery on his right wrist in May and now has almost total flexion in the joint. "We know how much he can do for us."
Lindy Ruff (13th season)