If you’re a hockey fan, or friends with hockey fans, you already know that playoff hockey is a completely different beast than regular season hockey.
That’s good news for the Bruins, because Big and Bad had a pretty big and bad limp heading into the playoffs, and many wondered if they had anything left in the tank.
Little did we all know, the B’s were holding onto the good stuff for when it counted most. And boy did they hold out. Down 4-1 in Game 7, it appeared as if half the team was going to be traded and Claude Julien was going to be fired.
You know how that game ended, and you know that Boston has been borderline unstoppable since. The B’s steamrolled the New York Rangers in five games, and have shocked the Penguins through two games.
It took an OT series win against the Canadiens two seasons ago to spark Boston, and it appears the same has happened this season since Game 7 vs. the Leafs.
But that isn’t the only similarity. Any team that has made it this far has its players playing the best hockey of the season. But Boston can look at its best offensive player this season and see that it’s the same one from the 2010-11 Stanley Cup run: David Krejci.
As it stands, Krejci leads the NHL postseason in points, with 20, and goals, eight. He’s second in assists, 12, and second in plus/minus, plus-12. Krejci had a breakout postseason two years back (23 points, 12 goals), but it looks like he’s going to pass those numbers this season.
“I think it's his whole game. He makes plays. He shoots more. I think it's just a situation,” Julien told reporters of Krejci earlier this week. “I think it's one of those guys that really loves the playoffs and loves the intensity and excitement that comes with it and really gets up for those.
“That's why people say playoff hockey goes up a notch from regular season. Well, that's because things mean a lot more and that's just the natural thing in players' minds.”
And it appears that Krejci’s recent success is rubbing off on his teammates – specifically his linemates. The Milan Lucic-Krejci-Nathan Horton line has been the best line in hockey this postseason.
In fact, all three guys are tops in the NHL in plus/minus, with Horton leading the way at plus-19 and Lucic tied with Krejci at plus-12. Also, Horton is right on the heels of Krejci in points (17), goals (7), and assists (10).
In the regular season, Horton had only 22 points. As he’s set to hit free agency at the end of the season, many expect him to not be back with the team. But like Krejci, Tuukka Rask, and many other Bruins players, he’s now playing at another level – and if Boston goes all the way, it’ll be pretty hard to say goodbye.
“Nathan at times with some injuries and everything that set him back, took him a while to get going,” Julien told reporters days ago. “But he's at the top of his game right now, and I've been saying this for the last couple of weeks, you know, in order to win the Stanley Cup you have to be playing your best hockey at this time of the year and that's what those guys are doing right now.”