There are many factors that contributed to the Boston Bruins regular season success this year, but one of the more important aspects of this team that will also lead to their postseason success, was the phenomenal play of their centers.
Patrice Bergeron had one of the better regular seasons of his already decorated career and as usual is in the conversation for the Selke Award, an honor given annually to the best defensive-forward. Bergeron already has a Selke (2012), Stanley Cup (2011) and two Olympic Gold medals (2010, 2014) but I’m sure he’d love to add to the trophy case.
In 80 games this season Bergeron amassed 30 goals and 32 assists, good for 62 points which is the 4th highest point total of his career but he’d only hit 30 goal marker one other time back in 2005. Not bad at all and even more impressive was his +/- rating which was a sparkling +38, remarkable for a man who often plays the other team’s top line and sees his fair share of penalty kill action.
Accolades and numbers aside we all know how important Bergeron is to the Bruins. Whether it be an important face-off, a big goal, a well-timed defensive play or just flat-out out working someone, there aren’t many players that play a better all-around game than Bergeron. I’ve loved Bergy since 2003 and at times my girlfriend comments how uncomfortable my adoration of Patrice can be but I don’t care, I’m a man and I’m not afraid to say I love another man.
Quickly moving right along brings us to a center who in my eyes is just as, if not more important to the Bruins success as Bergeron, Mr. David Krejci.
Krejci hasn’t gotten the respect or attention he deserves locally or nationally in my eyes. He is sometimes seen as a lazy or disinterested player because he can tend to disappear at times. Some say that’s because he is in fact lazy and only cares about the postseason while others say it’s because Krejci makes the game look so easy and plays so fluidly that it only appears as though he isn’t trying that hard. I believe it’s a little of both.
At any rate Krejci is a crafty, two-way center whose playmaking skills are made clear by his 50 assists in 80 games this year. He added 19 goals to those assists and was a league best +39. So you see his numbers are actually better than Bergeron’s yet I’m sure you’ve seen and heard a lot more about the Bergy which is fine I guess, because we are headed into the postseason and thats where Krejci shines.
Both times the Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup Finals (2011,2014) it’s no coincidence that Krejci was the leading scorer and if the B’s hope to make a deep run they’ll once again need production from their “#2″ center. In 81 career playoff games he has 73 points and is a +31 so I don’t think the Bruins are too concerned about that.
It’s also no coincidence that when the Bruins last won the Stanley Cup back in 2011, they got production and energy from their 3rd and 4th lines. They also got some good penalty killing from both lines, which Chris Kelly and Gregory Campbell are more than capable of providing.
Campbell is arguably the best 4th line center in the league and gives you everything he has every second of every game. He’s the kind of character guy you need if you want to win in the postseason. He knows his role, he accepts it and he excels in it.
Kelly however has been more of a wing lately with the emergence of Carl Soderberg as the new 3rd line center. Soderberg had been playing wing but has been nothing short of a revelation since shifting back to the middle (his natural position) and he’s combined with Kelly and Loui Eriksson to give the Bruins the 3rd line they were sorely lacking last season. The depth and added production allow B’s head coach Claude Julien to roll all four lines and keep players fresh throughout the regular and postseason.
The Bruins are so strong and so good down the middle that it’s hard if not impossible for most teams to match it. It’s a strength the B’s will no doubt have to use to their advantage if they wish to carry that success into this postseason.