Nick Goss

David Krejci among most underappreciated Boston athletes of his era

Krejci never got enough credit for his contributions to the Bruins' success during his career.

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The last 15 seasons represent one of the most successful periods of Boston Bruins hockey in the almost 100-year history of the franchise. So many great players are responsible for making that run -- which included the team's lone Stanley Cup championship since 1972 -- so exciting and memorable.

One player who never got the recognition he deserved during that span was David Krejci.

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He's a soft-spoken guy. His on-ice skill set didn't scream box office. Instead of playing with speed and power, he dominated opponents with his hockey IQ, creativity and phenomenal playmaking ability. He was tough, make no mistake about that, but truculence wasn't a staple of his game.

Krejci officially retired Monday after 16 NHL seasons, which all came with the Bruins after they selected him in the second round (64th overall) of the 2004 draft.

The longtime No. 2 center in Boston will be remembered for a lot of things, but one aspect of his game that stood above the rest was his ability to produce when it mattered most, especially in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Krejci was literally one of the best playoff performers of his era. Ex-Bruins goalie Tim Thomas was the undisputed top candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy in 2011, but Krejci was the best and most consistent skater for the Bruins during that title run.

Krejci tallied nine points (four goals, five assists) in a sweep of the Philadelphia Flyers in the second round, including the overtime winner in Game 2. He tallied seven points (five goals, two assists) in seven games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals. His assist on the only goal of Game 7 was a thing of beauty and the highlight of an all-time playoff game.

Krejci tallied six points (two goals, four assists) in the Stanley Cup Final versus the Vancouver Canucks. He led the charge offensively in Games 3 and 4 to help the B's tie the series after losing the first two matchups in Vancouver.

The Czech forward led the 2011 playoffs in scoring with 23 points (12 goals, 11 assists). He also finished No. 1 in scoring during the 2013 playoffs with 26 points (nine goals, 17 assists) as the Bruins advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The "Playoff Krech" nickname was very appropriate. Krejci's 128 playoff points are tied with longtime teammates Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron for No. 2 all time on Boston's career playoff scoring leaderboard, trailing only Ray Bourque (161). Krejci's final playoff performance was a good one despite the result. He scored a goal and dished out two assists for the Bruins in their Game 7 overtime loss to the Florida Panthers in Round 1.

Krejci's 128 points also are tied for the eighth-most among all players since he entered the league during the 2007-08 campaign.

Krejci will be remembered for more than his playoff success.

He had six regular seasons of 60-plus points, nine seasons of 50-plus points, four 20-goal seasons, six seasons of 40-plus assists, and five seasons of 15 or more power-play points.

And while Krejci did play with some very good wingers -- Milan Lucic, Nathan Horton, Jarome Iginla (one season) and David Pastrnak, for example -- he did go through many seasons with less-than-ideal talent on his line.

Krejci tied a career high with 73 points in 2018-19 despite playing 77-plus minutes at 5-on-5 with nine (!) different players on his wings, per Natural Stat Trick. Pastrnak is an amazing offensive player, but it wasn't a surprise that he set a career high with 61 goals in his first and only full season with Krejci as his center in 2022-23. Krejci's wings were constantly shuffling, but no matter who was beside him, his line was consistently productive.

Here's where Krejci ranks on the Bruins' career leaderboard in notable stats:

  • Games played: 1,032 (5th)
  • Goals: 231 (13th)
  • Assists: 555 (5th)
  • Points: 786 (9th)
  • Playoff games played: 160 (3rd)
  • Playoff goals: 43 (6th)
  • Playoff assists: 85 (2nd)
  • Playoff points: 128 (T-2nd)

The Bruins have several new numbers to hang up in the rafters at TD Garden as veterans from the last 15 years retire.

Zdeno Chara's No. 33 and Bergeron's No. 37 are locks to be retired. David Krejci's No. 46 should be, too. It's an honor he deserves for being one of the most important players in the franchise's recent history.

The Bruins' Stanley Cup drought would be at 51 years right now if not for Krejci.

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