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Make no mistake about it – losing David Krejci for the season is devastating. It’s arguably a tougher loss than losing Marc Savard at the end of the season. After all, the Bruins had time to readjust to life without Savard before the playoffs and seemed to be cranking on all cylinders throughout the first round sans Savard. After winning the Bruins’ Seventh Player Award (as well as the NHL Plus-Minus Award with a +37) last year, Krejci logged in another strong performance this year with 17 goals and 35 assists in 79 regular season games.
So, what does all this mean? It means with the absence of David Krejci, there’s a big void to fill. Now, everyone around (including players) will tell you that its going to take a concerted effort to pick up the slack left by the Krejci injury, but the bulk of that responsibility should really fall on one guy.
Blake Wheeler. Wheeler has been a little bit of a disappointment this post-season, if not this entire season (38 points,18 goals during the regular season). He just hasn’t looked right. Whether it’s lazy hooking penalties or not grinding the puck out of the corner, something has been missing. The rest of the team has been picking up the slack however. Now with Sturm and Krejci out, the numbers of contributing players are dwindling.
Wheeler has always been a prolific goal scorer. In his last season at the University of Minnesota, he recorded 35 points (15 goals) in 44 games. After his first season in the NHL, he was picked to represent the rookies in the NHL Young Stars Game and earned MVP honors by netting four goals. To go along with his goal scoring prowess, Wheeler is also a beast. He’s one of the biggest guys on the team at 6’5” and 205 lbs, second only to the massive Zdeno Chara. Sadly, however, he opted not to use his size to his advantage in the last series by not even recording a hit until the fourth game (when it was all said and done he only had four the entire series) and showing remarkable similarities to my sister’s game when we used to let her play street hockey. I get that hitting isn’t part of everyone’s game, but when you have the size, you’ve got to make your presence felt. This is the NHL after all, and NOT the NBA.
There is no doubt that playing with seasoned vets like Mark Recchi is having an effect on Wheeler’s play, and it’s starting to show. Recchi had nothing but praise for Wheeler’s performance after Game 3. Starting the series on the fourth line, Wheeler was bumped up to play with Savard on Wednesday night and took Krejci’s place on the power play. We all saw that phenomenal tip in goal last night, but something you may not have seen was the integral role Wheeler played in Recchi’s goal by doing what he should have been doing the entire playoffs – establishing himself in front of the net. Chara ripped a slap shot that hit Wheeler in the chest. In all the confusion, the puck landed right in front of Mark Recchi for the easy put-in. Well done boys!
So even though, like any good team, everyone is going to have to chip in to make up for the losses. I believe the responsibility falls more squarely on some players rather than others (I’m looking at you too, Milan Lucic).
And one last thing: There’s still a boat load of work to do this post season, so I’m not going to even start the whole ‘team of destiny’ thing. However, in the latter moments of a close game, I’m starting to get that 2003 Patriots-esque feeling that in some way, the Bruins are going to pull out a win. I’m just saying…