Patrice Bergeron has missed the past four game; the Bruins have gone 4-0 without him. They’re 5-0-1 without Bergeron total this season. There are a lot of reasons for Boston’s Bergeron-less success, but near the top of the list is Krejci. He has five points (one goal, four assists) in the four games Bergeron has missed during his latest absence, and the 33-year-old is nearly scoring at a point per game pace (20 points in 21 games) for the season.
In a world without Bergeron the past decade, Krejci would be so much more appreciated. Instead he’s been maligned for not being Bergeron, and for having the audacity to take $7.25 million from the Bruins, as if he was supposed to say to Peter Chiarelli, “No thanks, I’ll take a little less than whatever Bergeron’s getting. (Never mind that at the time he signed his contract Krejci was the Bruins’ No. 1 center.)
Krejci has one more year left on his contract. Whether he leaves via free agency, is traded or whenever he’s gone from Boston, the hole will be felt. And forget this nonsense about trading him now that Charlie Coyle is locked up. With Bergeron’s health in doubt and the Bruins determined to challenge for the Stanley Cup for another couple years with their current core, center depth will be of the essence and Krejci has to stay.
And tying in Claude Julien’s hapless Canadiens here, Jonathan Drouin left their lineup with an injury against Washington on Nov. 15. The Canadiens won that game and they’ve gone 0-5-3 since. Against the Bruins on Saturday , Nick Cousins played wing in the Montreal top six. Artturi Lehkonen has filled in at times as well. It hasn’t worked. The Canadiens don’t have the depth the Bruins have when it comes to replacing a marquee player. Blame Julien all you want, but this one’s on general manager Marc Bergevin, who hasn’t given Julien a full deck and with one card pulled out he’s stuck.
“Elation.” That’s how David Backes described the feeling after he scored the go-ahead goal against the Canadiens on Saturday. Be honest, you were tearing your hair out wondering what the heck he was doing on the second power play in his first game back after a 13-game absence with a concussion. You know you were.
And let’s face it, Backes is only in the lineup because of Bergeron’s injury, and Karson Kuhlman’s injury, and … well probably not Brett Ritchie’s injury. One has to wonder if there’s a spot on this team for Ritchie once he’s healthy.
But back to Backes, what does his immediate future look like? Depending on GM Don Sweeney’s appetite to add at the trade deadline, he may be able to get creative with a package that convinces someone to take Backes if money is retained in the deal. A young team could keep him next year for leadership, or buy him out, an option that’s more palatable next summer than it was in the summer of 2019. The Bruins might even be willing to jump off that bridge if they have to.
The power-play goal aside, Backes still looked slow trying to keep up with Joakim Nordstrom and Par Lindholm. The playoffs were once played at Backes’ style, but no more, as we saw for most of the 2019 postseason, when his occasional bursts of energy weren’t sustainable.
It looks like he may wind up a 13th forward, but a healthier roster probably drops him to 14th. If everyone aside from Kevan Miller is available, will the Bruins keep a 14th forward and carry just seven defensemen? Steven Kampfer has come in handy as an eighth defenseman, a role he’d be in once John Moore is back.
The reigning GM of the Year has been on a role with his signings of Charlie McAvoy, Brandon Carlo, Charlie Coyle and Chris Wagner. It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the upcoming roster crunch.