|Shootin’ at the shootout||10.23.08 at 2:34 pm ET|
Since we’ve been discussing the shootouts so much, here’s last season’s shooting percentages and success rate for each of the Bruins players heading into tonight’s match-up with the Maple Leafs — if it should get to that point.
As an aside, there’s a strong Pucks with Haggs vote to put another team in the Toronto-area — as the reports have stated – to go along with the Maple Leafs. Hamilton would be perfect place and was the desired target if the Nashville Predators ended up moving, but any team that returns back into the motherland of Canada is a good thing for hockey and the NHL. Winnipeg and Quebec City would also be great places to relocate some of these warmer climate teams from the US that simply have never seemed like a good fit (Hello Nashville!) for a frozen sheet. Anyway, here are the B’s shootout stats from last season:
Phil Kessel — 5 scores in 13 tries for a 38.5 percent success rate. The five shootout scores were the third-most in the NHL least season and a clear indicator that this is a speciality for a guy with the hockey skills to pay the bills (for his career, Kessel is 10-for-23 with a 43.5 success rate with nine game-deciding scores).
Zdeno Chara — 1 for 2 for a 50 percent success rate, with the successful attempt a memorable wind-up slapper against the New York Rangers at the Garden last season (2-for-5 career for a 40 percent success rate).
David Krejci — 1 for 5 for a 20 percent success rate. Krejci is a guy that could be a future weapon in the shootout, and has already scored this season as well (and 2-for-7 career for a 28.6 percent success rate).
Marco Sturm — 1 for 8 for a 12.5 percent success rate (7-for-25 career for a 28 percent success rate).
Patrice Bergeron — 0 for 1 (8-for-24 career for a career 33.3 percent success rate).
Dennis Wideman — 0 for 1 (2-for-8 with a career 25 percent success rate).
Chuck Kobasew — 0 for 3 (and 0-for-8 in his career, perhaps it’s time to hang up his skates during the shootout).
Michael Ryder — 0 for 1 (and 1-for-11 with a career 9.1 percent success rate). Ryder’s numbers in the shootout actually makes it a real head-scratcher as to why Claude Julien opted to put him in the top three during Boston’s first two shootout losses this season.
Marc Savard — a career 2-for-12 with a 16.7 percent success rate.
P.J. Axelsson — 0-for-3 career in the shootout.
|Notes from a Wilmington frozen sheet||10.22.08 at 10:59 am ET|
A few notes from practice this morning:
–Swedish winger and the longest-tenured Bruin P.J. Axelsson skated at practice this morning, and related afterward that he felt good. Axie has missed three games with unspecified muscle spasms, but it’s hoped he’ll be ready to go against the Maple Leafs in a big divisional ”four-pointer” Thursday night.
“I felt good. We’ll see how it reacts and how I feel tomorrow morning,” said Axelsson following practice. “It’s not nice [to miss games], but at least I’m making progress.”
–B’s goaltender Tim Thomas said his wife told him this morning [quick Haggs' aside: you've got to love the
ultimate hockey family where the wife is telling her NHL player/husband what’s going on between the pipes around the league] about the Toronto Maple Leafs switcheroo in net on Wednesday night during their overtime shootout. For those that weren’t in the know or didn’t happen to be in the booming Metropolis of Toronto last night, coach Ron Wilson lifted Vesa Toskala after the overtime, and instead placed 41-year-old veteran Curtis Joseph between the pipes solely for the shootout.
Thomas said he had heard of similar moves before in the AHL and Claude Julien thought that Edmonton turned the trick last season with Mathieu Garon and former UMass-Lowell netminder Dwayne Roloson. Thomas admitted that it might make sense in some instances. One of the biggest questions Thomas had was, who gets the loss when that happens?
Logic would dictate it would be CuJo after losing to the Team Formerly Known as the Mighty Ducks in the shootout, and this time logic wins. Toskala gets zeroes across the board after allowing two goals through the first 65 minutes of hockey, and Joseph gets an OT loss after hopping onto the ice cold turkey for the shootout session. The Leafs are coming to Boston on Thursday, so perhaps the B’s will get to see this for themselves tomorrow night.
“I’ve heard people talk about doing it when the shootout first started. Does CuJo get the overtime loss, and then Toskala gets a no-decision? CuJo must have known beforehand and been loosening, so he’d be ready to go in for the shootout. You’ve got to loosen up your muscles, and I think you’re not worried too much about the mental part of it. Especially at CuJo’s age. You’re worried about making sure your body doesn’t pull a muscle.
“Being a goalie in that situation would be kind of weird. I don’t think it would be too much pressure because they’re putting you in there because they think they’re going to lose to the other guys anyway in the shootout. Know what I mean. It’s an easy opportunity to be a hero. In a way it’s kind of relief if you’ve played well in net [like Toskala] and it’s a 2-2 games when you come out.”
–Patrice Bergeron was among several Bruins that addressed the B’s alarming 0-3 record in shootouts thus far in the young season — a campaign in which they seemed as if they had a pretty good chance to improve on last season’s 6-7 record in OT shootouts. Bergeron admitted that it might be time to mix things up a little bit among Boston shooters — Bergeron himself has gone to the five-hole tuck move several times already in the young season — but also felt that the Black and Gold had the makings of a good shootout team. Also credit Julien for bumping David Krejci into the top three shooters, as the 22-year-old scored in the final round of the top three to extend the shootout two more rounds in last night’s eventual loss. It was a crafty little quick shot that Ryan Miller clearly wasn’t ready for as he slowly made his way down the slot.
“Things haven’t worked out for us [in the shootout] the way we would like them to. You’ve got to keep working at it,” said Bergeron. “We’ve won some games in shootouts and we have a lot of talent up front, and the back side can do a lot of things out there too.
“Because we didn’t so well in three games doesn’t mean that we can’t start getting good results. Yes, I am trying to create some new moves and sometimes it takes a while to get them ready for the shootout. I think practicing it is one thing out on the ice, and then bringing it into the games is something that’s a little different. You just have to go out there and take whatever the goalie is giving you.”
After all this shootout talk, it’s clearly time to include the best shootout goal of all-time. This one comes courtesy of former Boston College winger Ryan Shannon, who perfected the spin-o-rama move with the Vancouver Canucks last season and used it to help win a game for them against the Chicago Blackhawks. The best part was the shove in the back from the Bullin Wall that he got after scoring the goal. Shannon is toiling with the Binghamton Senators in the AHL right now, so maybe it’s time to make a move and bring the shootout specialist back to the Hub for specialist duty. You can never have enough spin-o-ramas. Enjoy the video and let me know what your favorite shootout move/goal is.
|Bruins promoting Cancer Awareness on Thursday||10.21.08 at 11:11 pm ET|
The Black and Gold will host another “four-point special”, as WBZ Radio stalwart Jonny Miller likes to call it, on Thursday night when the Toronto Maple Leafs come to town. Aside from the game being another chance for the B’s to pile up some points against their divisional rival, it will also mark the Bruins’ turn to host Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night at the Garden. Listed below is the inside scoop on the event from PWH’s friends at the NHL office:
To celebrate the start of the 2008-09 season, the National Hockey League (NHL) and the National Hockey League Players' Association (NHLPA) will host their annual Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Month in October. The league-wide initiative includes numerous activities that involve all 30 clubs, players, management and fans, as well as the creation of Hockey Fights Cancer-themed merchandise, all with the goal of raising awareness and funds for this important cause.
During October, each NHL club will host a Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night in its arena. Clubs will team with local and national cancer organizations to promote cancer awareness and raise funds for hockey's most important fight. Clubs will hold on-ice presentations, 50/50 raffles, promotional giveaways, contests and discount ticket offers. Tickets and arena suites will be donated to Children's Hospitals and cancer-affiliated programs, and young patients will be involved with in-game opportunities including rides on the ice resurfacer, puck-drops, radio booth visits and player meet-and-greets. There also will be on-line, live and silent auctions of signed items, including helmets, sticks, jerseys and other team merchandise. Several clubs will continue to promote awareness by participating in local hospital visits and fundraising runs and walks.
Lavender, which represents awareness for all cancers, is the designated color for this year's initiative and will be worn by the hockey community throughout October Members of the hockey family, including NHL coaches, broadcasters and team personnel, will wear a commemorative Hockey Fights Cancer tie at games in October. The lavender tie features blue and pink stripes and an embroidered Hockey Fights Cancer logo. Also, in support of this initiative, all NHL players will wear a Hockey Fights Cancer decal on their helmets during all regular-season games in October.
Additional one-of-a-kind apparel has been created to support Hockey Fights Cancer, including a lavender ladies' scarf, which features a hockey stick pattern throughout and the Hockey Fights Cancer logo at two ends. Ladies' and men's Hockey Fights Cancer team-specific caps also will be available. The ladies' lavender garment-washed cap, designed by New Era, features a team logo on the front and an embroidered Hockey Fights Cancer logo on the side. The men's cap is Reebok's official 2008-09 Draft Day cap with the Hockey Fights Cancer embroidered patch on the side.
To further promote this initiative, the NHLPA and the NHL, together with Getty Images, NHL Images and Greystone Books, will publish Reflections 2008 – The NHL Hockey Year In Photographs. The second of an annual visual celebration, the book chronicles the highlights and candid, behind-the-scenes images from the 2007-08 NHL season. Copies of the book, autographed by team captains, will be auctioned on nhlpa.com and nhl.com in October.
Hockey fans will be able to purchase the commemorative tie, scarf, caps and book at shop.nhl.com, team stores and the NHL Powered by Reebok store in New York City. A portion of the proceeds will benefit Hockey Fights Cancer.
'Last year we passed the $10-million milestone for money raised for cancer research through Hockey Fights Cancer,' said Bernadette Mansur, Executive Director of the NHL Foundation. 'We thank everyone in the NHL family for their generosity and we will continue to raise money and awareness for this important fight.'
'Each season, through Hockey Fights Cancer, the hockey community increases efforts to build awareness of a disease that has affected us all,' said Devin Smith, NHLPA Director, Marketing & Community Relations. 'October signifies the dedication that Players, clubs and fans have to find a cure in hockey's greatest fight.'
About Hockey Fights Cancer
Hockey Fights Cancer is a joint charitable initiative founded in December 1998 by the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players' Association. It is supported by players, NHL member clubs, NHL alumni, the NHL Officials' Association, professional hockey athletic trainers and equipment managers, corporate marketing partners, broadcast partners and fans throughout North America. The goal of Hockey Fights Cancer is to raise money and awareness for national and local organizations involved in cancer care and research. To date, Hockey Fights Cancer has raised more than $10 million.
|Deep postgame thoughts||10.20.08 at 8:17 pm ET|
Here’s some deep hockey thoughts Haggs-style following the Bruins’ 2-1 shootout loss to the Penguins in the home opener at the TD Banknorth Garden last night. Good lively crowd in the house to celebrate a team that’s played very well early in the season, and they were rewarded with a pretty crisply played early season hockey game. Anyway, off to the scattered thoughts from a puck-addled brain:
*First off, P.J. Axelsson won’t be making the trip to Buffalo for Tuesday night’s game against the high-flying Sabres (wonder what it’s like on Chippewa Street these days with both the Sabres and the Bills just tearing it up right now). The Swede with the Zoolander-esque fashion sense will miss his third straight game tonight with unspecified muscle spasms. No word on when Axxy will be ready to return, so no need to question Zoolander about it.
*Interesting mood for coach Claude Julien after the game, as he seemed fairly agitated and conveyed a feeling that his team didn’t get their just reward for the impressive effort they put in. The shots were pretty even up when both teams ended 55 minutes of hockey still deadlocked, but the B’s had 4 power play opportunities and frittered away several really good shots in the early going. You couldn’t help but feel that Julien was lamenting the one that got away in another solid effort in regulation followed by a shootout loss. Could this be a familiar fate for the Spoked B’s this season?
“There are a couple of guys on the other team that lead the league in scoring, and they only scored one goal,” said Julien, refering of course to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. ”We can go on about this if you guys want, but I thought this was a hard-fought game with great goaltending on both ends. There were good chances and the scoring chances were pretty even. We came up short in the shootout and I think that’s where we need to get better. We need to finish, especially in the shootout. But as far as the game is concerned, if you ask me my opinion I thought we were the better team tonight.”
*Huge ovation for Patrice Bergeron during the smoke-machine aided entrance to the ice by each of the
Bruins players during a brisk and fairly frill-less pre-game introduction ceremony. Bergeron quickly lifted the stick up in the air with one hand in acknowledgement of the welcoming cheers as he skated on the ice, and then the 23-year-old proceeded to play his heart out in a very strong game — perhaps his best of the young season thus far.
“The crowd reaction was awesome,” said Bergeron. “I knew the fans in Boston were awesome, and they’ve been great with me through my injury. And even before that. I couldn’t wait to get back out there. It was awesome to be in the Garden and out on the ice. Yes, I played in exhibition games twice on the ice, but it’s not the same as a regular season game.”
There were many strong scoring chances among his team-high seven shots on the night, and both he and Marco Sturm were able to forcefully pin down the Penguins defenseman — who clearly miss both blueliners Sergei Gonchar and Ryan Whitney as they recuperate from injuries – in their own end pretty much all night long. When the Pens did manage to break out, the Bergeron-inspired pressure caused a handful of nuetral zone giveaways and did much to disrupt Pittsburgh’s offense. Much has been made of Bergeron’s “slow start” after missing nearly all of last season with post-concussion syndrome, but the B ‘s Assistant Captain has been making huge contributions all over the ice aside from the utterly obvious goal-scoring statistic. Bergie also won 60 percent of the 20 faceoffs taken over the course of the evening as well.
“He’s frustrated because he’s had some good opportunities and he hasn’t been able to score,” said Julien of Bergeron’s mindset after putting up four assists in the team’s first five games. ”But that’s a normal thing. When you haven’t played in a year it’s going to take a little time. When he finds his touch we’re going to have a pretty good player.”
*Toward the end of the second period Julien switched up his lines and placed the red-hot Phil Kessel and playmaking Marc Savard on the same line together, and the results were instant and unmistakable. While the duo didn’t pot the game-winning goal to break up the tie, Savard thought he had a goal in the third period when he played the give-and-go to perfection with Kessel. Savard fed the puck to Kessel behind the net to start the plate, and Kessel slid a nifty pass from behind the net to Savard all by himself in the high slot area. Penguins goalie Danny Sabourin managed to get a bit of his blocker on the puck and deflect it away, but that doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of Kessel and Savard skating together on the same line in the future.
“Claude put us together at the end of the second period there, and I think he brings a lot of speed to the line. I am able to use him wide when he stays wide and obviously he’s a big force,” said Savard. ”It seems like that’s what [Julien] wanted tonight and it seemed to work. In the third, I thought I scored when I got it to Phil behind the net and he got it to me in the slot. I even raised my stick, and I don’t know how it didn’t go in. It must have hit his glove or something.”
For the record, Savard recorded two shots in the third and Kessel one after the two were paired off.
*No respect for hard-nosed Mark Stuart. At one point during the pre-game team introductions he was skipped over and then the blueliner moved to the back of the line. The Bruins PA never get around to announcing his name as he skated through the smog from the smoke machine during the intros. No respect, I tell ya…no respect.
*Bruins Captain Zdeno Chara looked as if he just picked up right where he let off last season. Big Z had four minutes more of ice time that anybody else on either Boston or Pittsburgh, and quietly skated for 30:47 on a night that seemed to grind away at everybody.
|PHWA gives to charity||10.20.08 at 5:33 pm ET|
Who knew us Professional Hockey Writers were so philanthropic? Here’s a release from the Bruins about a partnership between the PHWA (which I’m a proud member of) and the B’s to raise money for charity. And all it cost us media members is a measly $5 for top shelf food in the Garden’s press room. I’ll be back with some postgame thoughts after the B’s game with the Penguins, which is currently tied 1-1 with 4:30 to go in the second period.
BOSTON BRUINS FOUNDATION AND BOSTON CHAPTER OF THE PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY WRITERS ASSOCIATION TEAM UP FOR CHARITY
BOSTON, MA – The Boston Bruins Foundation and the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) have partnered to make a donation to a charity of their choosing at the end of the 2008-2009 season.
Two and half hours before every Bruins home game, there is a press meal served in the Will McDonough Press Room at the TD Banknorth Garden for working members of the media. Those members of the media who wish to dine in the Press Room will be asked to make a $5.00 donation and 100 percent of the donation will go to the Boston Bruins Foundation. At the end of the year, the Bruins Foundation and the Boston Chapter of the PHWA will mutually agree upon a charity to which they will donate 100 percent of the proceeds collected throughout the season.
“The Boston Bruins Foundation is very happy to work with the Media that covers the Bruins to help our community,” said Director of Development, Boston Bruins Foundation Bob Sweeney. “By contributing a small amount for a meal in the Will McDonough room before each game, the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and the Bruins Foundation are going to be able to make a sizeable donation at the end of the year.”
“The Boston Chapter of the PHWA is proud to be part of this endeavor with the Bruins Foundation and looks forward to helping out a worthy cause,” stated Matt Kalman, President of the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
The Bruins host the Pittsburgh Penguins in their 2008-2009 home opener tonight, October 20, at 7:00 p.m. ET at the TD Banknorth Garden (TV: NESN, RADIO: WBZ1030 AM).
Fans interested in learning more about Boston Bruins players, or ticket options, should visit the team website at www.bostonbruins.com or call 617.624.BEAR.
|Hockey Notes: Good things from Kessel||10.18.08 at 9:38 am ET|
The 21-year-old puck prodigy has a pair of goals in the first three games this season and has clearly shown a willingness to start paying a higher price to score points and make things happen for the team. The 6-foot, 192-pound Kessel has always been blessed with a ridiculously fast release and it still looks somebody hit the turbo button on a Nintendo controller whenever the winger gets his legs churning and gains some speed. The difference this season is that he’s also starting to flash a little grit and tenacity in his hockey tool box.
Kessel’s #1 responsibility should be putting points on the table and lighting up the red lamp like it’s Main Street in Amsterdam, but the willingness to “take a hit and make a play” is something that the Bruins organization has been waiting to see. Bruins coach Claude Julien sees a player that’s simply growing up before his eyes and mixing the strength, speed and skill package necessary to be an effective, responsible player in his system — a maturation that some unfairly expected to see when he was still a teen-ager but is happening on its own schedule. Something that is just fine with the B’s.
“With time and experience, he just keeps getting better,” said Juien, who really seems to be the perfect coach for a young hockey club that’s both reaping explosive bursts of hockey skill and enduring necessary growing pains during an 82-game hockey schedule. “That’s why you have to be patient sometimes with young athletes. You don’t want to turn the page or overreact. I think that’s paying dividends right now in Phil’s case.”
Kessel is certainly someone that holds a lot of value around the NHL world given his “can’t be taught” physical skills and precocious age, but the gist of Julien’s words isn’t lost. The Bruins had ample chances to deal Kessel last season if they deemed that the youngster wasn’t a good fit with their team philosophies, but it’s always a risky roll of the dice with somebody young enough to change their habits and raise their potential ceiling as a player.
Was the benching last season in Boston’s first round battle against the Canadiens something that finally got Kessel’s attention and brought about the change? Was it simply the maturation of a young guy that started playing men’s pro hockey as 19-year-old and faced off cancer in his rookie season along with everything else?
Kessel’s not telling, but it’s clear that he’s beginning to “get it”, as Bill Parcells is wont to say: “I worked hard this summer and I want to do well this year. It’s all about helping this team win games and get better. I don’t think I learned anything from sitting down in the playoffs. It was a decision that the coach made. Playing in the playoffs just makes you want to get back there again.”
Kessel went from 11 goals and 29 points in his rookie season — along with a tough -12 to set the numbers to sobering reality — but improved to 19 goals, 37 points and a -6 last season in Julien’s defensive-minded system. With time and confidence on his side, is a 30 goal, 50 points season a possibility after watching Kessel weave through defenses in the early going and mystify goalies with his snapping wrist shot? It would be a big step forward, but it’s a step that the Bruins are hoping to see become reality as Kessel keeps learning to harness his considerable talents.
“When Boston was here [in Minnesota] I was talking to [Peter] Chiarelli in the stands because they practice [at the University of Minnesota] before they play the Wild,” said Golden Gophers head coach Don Lucia, who coached both Blake Wheeler and Kessel during their collegiate hockey careers. “We were talking about how [Phil] has matured and gotten better. People forget that he just turned 21 years old, that Phil is really just still a pup. He’s going to keep getting better. He’s an outstanding player now, and he’s going to be even better three or four years from now.”
Scouting report on Lukacevic
I’ve heard a lot of questions over the last week about the minor league player involved in the Andrew Alberts trade with the Philadelphia Flyers: Ned Lukacevic. The 22-year-old winger was packaged with a conditional draft pick to the Bruins for the brawny Bruins blueliner to clear off some room under the salary cap, and Lukacevic promptly reported to the Providence Bruins.
Lukacevic has bounced between the ECHL and AHL levels over the last two seasons and potted 36 points for the ECHL’s Reading Royals last season before getting dealt to the Flyers in the Dennis Gauthier trade over the summer. Here’s a scouting report on Lukacevic from an NHL talent evaluator that’s watched the 6-foot, 200-pound winger several times over the last few years: “His best asset is his skating. He’s a great skater with a lot of speed. He really needs to work on his grit and paying the price going to the net. Sometimes he would do it and other times he wouldn’t. He needs more consistency in that area.”
Tough Break to Break Out
Prior to the start of the season, veteran Bruins defenseman Aaron Ward credited Rod Brind’Amour with really helping light his competitive fire while sharing a rigorous off-season workout schedule with Rod the Bod. So it must have been truly disappointing for Ward to hear that Brind’Amour needed arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in September after reconstruction surgery for a torn ACL wiped out the final six weeks of the season for the Carolina sparkplug.
The Heart and Soul is back with the ‘Canes following the second surgery that wiped out much of his training camp, however, and has a pair of goals and an assist in four games with Carolina after playing only one preseason game. The 38-year-old is obviously back in a big way with Carolina, but he also deserves an assist for providing a little spark and inspiration to help get Ward’s 35-year-old skating legs churning again this summer.
“I started skating in June with Rod Brind’Amour and he’s the kind of guy that’s just piss and vinegar. That’s just the type of guy that he is and he just lives for hockey. So he got out there in April and I got out there in June and started skating with him. It’s weird,” said Ward, who played in his 700th NHL game against the Canadienslast Wednesday. ”I never had a mental need to play hockey, but Game 6 of last season also really helped propel me back out there [to skate with Rod.]
“I don’t know if it was anxiety or just excitement that got me out there skating again [so early.] But as an older guy that’s a good sign. Because when you start feeling like it’s tough to get the pads on, and I’ve gone through that before, that’s not good. It was rough when I was in New York and I came here in the second half. It was tough to get that mental switch going where you wanted to be out on the ice, but last year I wasn’t ready for [the season] to be done. That’s a good sign.”
|Krejci on the rise||10.15.08 at 11:40 pm ET|
David Krejci had never scored less than 20 goals in any season during his hockey career — whether it was developing his puck magician skills in the minors, maturing in the Quebec Major Junior League as a Czech Republic native slowly growing comfortable with the English language, or dominating amateur leagues in ice rinks all across his native land.
That is until last season.
The craftier than crafty 22-year-old has obviously honed a puck identity as an assist machine during each level of his hockey development — a byproduct of his wise-beyond-his-years ability to think the game through. And a gifted set of fast-twitch hands that easily make split-second transitions between puck possession and a perfect dish to the high-scoring areas on the ice. It’s a gift that the skilled elite in the National Hockey League all possess, and Krejci has it in glorious abundance.
But the 6-foot, 178-pounderalso takes pride in being able to make opposing teams pay when they expect him to pass, and he’s always been something of a goal-scoring throat along the way. So when Krejci looked back on last season’s encouraging second half performance with the Bruins, he clearly saw one area that needed some improvement: 13 goals scored in 81 games split between the Providence B’s (7 goals, 21 assists in 25 games) and the Hockey Hub (6 goals, 21 assists in 56 games).
“One of the top [improvements for me] is shooting for sure. Three years ago before I got to Providence, I just brought a net out to my garden and just shot every day for three months straight,” said Krejci. ”That year I got 30 goals. Then i got a taste of the NHL and I thought I had to be stronger and I did [get stronger]. But I didn’t improve at other stuff that I needed to be good at like shooting. I hadn’t been shooting at all the summer before last season, and I could see that I was really getting weaker with my shot.”
With that in mind, Krejci spent a lot of time this summer shooting anywhere he could. There was no confirmation that a young professional hockey player named Krejci was spotted on the beaches of Krk Island in Croatia armed with a stick and rocketing stones into the ocean during his summer vacation, but the center did admit to long hours firing away at pucks in the garden outside his Czech Republic home this summer. It’s something that Krejci had always done each and every summer to strengthen his wrists and add snap to the his wrist shot and slapper attempts, and his strength and feel for his shot went missing last season.
He felt as if shying away from the hundreds of shots each week is why he wound up with 13 goals for the
season, and it’s a big reason why the budding B’s prospect thinks he’s going to be back up over that comfortable 20 goal level this season. Krejci has already potted the game-winner in Colorado on opening night, and his goal-scoring touch was again key in last night’s point-winning 4-3 shootout loss to the hated Habs on Wednesday night. Krejci scored Boston’s first goal of the second period, a rocket of a one-time slap shot after a rebounded puck floated right to him in the high slot.
Did Krejci’s extra shooting work supply a little more sizzle to a shot that rattled the cross-bar before eventually dropping into the net? That just may be, but you be the judge after checking out a Q&A I had with Krejci recently. His skills are truly of the eye-popping variety and he seems poised to make a huge step forward in his second NHL season this winter.
How big was getting up to the NHL toward the end of the season and feeling comfortable last season? DK: Last year I went to training camp to make the team and i did it. But I had some up and downs, you know. I need to be more consistent. I know I had a good year and so many people told me that, but it’s time to to put last year behind me and do whatever I can do this year to be even better. I just need to focus forward rather than the past.
So you had people congratulating you on having a good year, and you’re thinking in your head that the best things are yet to come? DK: Yeah, exactly. I know I had some good games last year. Those games I would love to play every single night this year. No up and downs like I said before. Just consistent. I was happy with the season, but I wasn’t happy as the season went along because I need to be at the same level.
How much of last season was getting comfortable? What was the key for you? DK: A little bit of everything. You need a little luck. I got lucky by getting an opportunity. Savvy got hurt and I was able to play his position. Sometimes I didn’t play good, so I just need to work harder. I don’t want to go back to Providence. I liked everyone there and had a good time, but this is what I dream of. The games I didn’t play good, I just tried to work the hardest so they wouldn’t send me down.
What kind of players bring the best out of you at center? DK: I take everything from everyone. I played a lot
last year with Marco Sturm and Kess, and they both have a lot of speed. So you give them the puck and everything is fine. When I played a long time with Axxy, I think he is one of the best two-way players in the league. So many people think he’s only a defensive player but he’s got great skills to make all the plays. So I like playing with anybody. I can just pick two guy and then play with them all year. You never know there’s going to be injuries or something…or there’s five minutes left and you’re going out there with guys that you have played with and they know what to expect from you. And I know what to expect from them. It makes it a little easier.
When you’re in the offensive zone are you thinking in your head to pass first? Is that how your hockey mind works? DK:I know I don’t have the greatest shot in the league, so I’m trying to work on it. I’m trying to get better sticks [Krejci said this with a laugh]. 2-on-1 or whatever I don’t care whether it’s me or Axxy or whoever scoring the goal. Whether I make the pass or I shoot it, I just like when we score a goal. I don’t want to go back to the bench [without scoring] and have somebody says ‘nice play’ or whatever. If I make a nice play and we don’t score a goal, then it’s just like putting the puck in the corner, you know. I just want the team to score goals.
If you’ve got an opening to shoot then I’ll shoot it and if I have an opening to shoot or pass it I might try to look off the goalie and make a nice play. Sometimes it doesn’t work.
Do you get more of a thrill out of setting up a nice pass or scoring a goal? DK:I was always more of the passer guy all my life, but I’ll tell you one thing…I was pretty happy when I finally scored a goal last year. I like to be the playmaker and play with the puck. It’s hard to say.
Guys must like playing with you if you like passing the puck? DK: You’ve got to ask them, you know. Scoring or passing, I’ll just take whatever comes. I just think I’m more of a guy who can handle the puck better than shoot the puck from the top of the circle.
You talked about the shooting a little bit…were there one or two areas like that you pinpointed in the summer and you wanted to get better at? DK: There’s more stuff I wanted to get better at in the offseason. One of the top ones is shooting for sure. Three years ago before I got to Providence, I just brought a net out to my garden and just shot every day for three months straight. That year I got 30 goals. Then i got a taste of the NHL and I thought I had to be stronger and I did [get stronger]. But I didn’t improve at other stuff that I needed to be good at like shooting. I haven’t been shooting at all the summer before last season, and I could see that I was really getting weaker with my shot.
So this year I brought the net back and tried to shoot as many pucks as I could. This is back in the Czech, and I have a house on the hill that has a driveway that goes down below into a garden. I set the net up there and started shooting again. I didn’t it three years ago felt great and scored 30 goals. Didn’t do it last year and scored…what…six goals in the NHL.
So are you going to score 30 goals this season? DK: I’m not saying I’m going to score 30 goals, but I will say that my shot is going to be harder this year. Training camp was tough so you didn’t have a lot of time to shoot before and after practice, but we’ll see.
Was there a moment last year where something happened and you said ‘you know what, I belong in the NHL?’ DK: When I made the team from training camp, our first road trip was in California. I thought I played good and coaches told they wanted me to play here. Then when they told me I was unsuccessful. I didn’t want to be, but I just didn’t play as good as I did before. That’s why I was talking about being consistent. I knew I could play when we were on that California trip. I knew I could play at this level. So I went to work again in Providence and got called back up and really believed I could stay all year. And that’s what I did.
That must have been important to have that idea in your head that you could play here. DK: It was a good feeling. When they brought me back I was playing 10 minutes a night and playing on the power play. So that got my confidence up. I love it on the power play. I feel like it’s one of my strongest game. I love to feel like I’m an important guy on the team and other guys will be counting on me.
Is there kind of a good feeling that there’s a bunch of young players like yourself that are all growing up on the team together? DK: It’s nice. The older guys have been nice to us. Sometimes they make a joke at us, but you’ve got to take it as a team thing. It’s nice that we’ve got some more younger guys, so you kind of turn it on them and make jokes about them.
Who’s the biggest veteran to make jokes at you guys? DK:Axxey maybe. Just fun stuff. There are more guys. It’s hard to say just one.
What’s your favorite moment from last year? DK:It was all of the momens from the first playoff series for sure. It was something I won’t ever forget. Even if I play 10 more times in the league and 10 more times in the playoff, it was my first time there and we went to seven games in Montreal. it was something special, you know. That Game 6 was the biggest thing. They scored three goals, we scored three goals. It was just crazy. Like I said, I would love to do it again.
What was your summer like? DK:Yeah, my offseason I don’t skate at all. I usually start skating three or sometimes four weeks before the camp so I can get strong and get a feel for the ice before camp.
Did you do any traveling? DK: Travel. After the season I went to World Championships in Quebec City and then I spent maybe a week in Ottawa. I played Junior hockey there and I still have a girlfriend from there so I spent a week there. Then i went back home and went on a 10 day vacation with family, my good friends and my girlfriend to Croatia. It was nice just relaxing on the beaches.
People tell me that the beaches in parts of Croatia are pretty nice. DK:Yeah. It’s not a sand beach, it’s big rocks. So it makes the water so clear and it’s pretty nice. Sometimes when you have a sandy bottom to the beach you can’t see anything below the water, but you can see all the rocks in the water. It’s pretty nice. I go there the last 10 years in a row for a week or two. I always used to go to a place called Krk Island for five years in a row, but the last couple of years I’ve just picked places out of city with my friends.
Croatia is so beautiful, you know, they have all kinds of little villages that basically come alive at night. So you got to the beaches all day and then you have stuff to do like going to shops, or street dancers or street magicians. There’s always things to do there. it’s very nice.
Is that rest good for you when you had such a long season between Providence, Boston and the World Championships? DK: Oh yeah. There was a excitement inside of me, but I was so exhausted that I couldn’t wait to rest. I was watching the Stanley Cup playoffs you know, and it was so hard to watch them last season when you knew you could have been there. It’s so nice when I go to Croatia I just totally take everything off and I eat like an animal, you know, and do whatever. Just relaxing and doing whatever I want. After that [hockey] starts over again, you know.