Pittsburgh Penguins v Boston Bruins - Game Three

Dave Lozo’s Bag Skate is a weekly feature that’s named as such because A) it’s kinda part mailbag, and B), like a bag skate, it’s very long. Unlike a bag skate, however, it is very enjoyable. Lozo worked for NHL.com for five years, three months, and 19 days (seriously), and finally left after getting his resumé to the point where he was qualified to write somewhere as prestigious as Backhand Shelf.

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For a better part of the past three seasons, David Krejci has been living something of a double life. The Boston Bruins center doesn’t have a secret second family back home in the Czech Republic, but he has been two different people on the ice.

The player most of us know is Regular Season David Krejci, the one who tends to disappear for extended stretches and has been somewhat disappointing since his 22-goal, 73-point season in 2008-09. He’s been known to not bring his best over the course of an 82-game season, and he has drawn criticism for that. He’s like your cool funny buddy who promises to be your wingman at the bar, only he spends half the time on the other side of the bar checking sports scores on the TV because his fantasy team is “really surging,” leaving you to drown in your own nervous sweat and boring chit chat.

If you’re looking for comparables for Regular Season David Krejci, his numbers are on par with Erik Cole, Michael Ryder and Mikko Koivu. During his 52-point campaign in 2009-10, he finished tied for 85th in scoring with Kyle Okposo and Saku Koivu. Those are average to above-average players with which Krejci is on par, but it hardly puts him in rarified air with the NHL’s elite.

Bruins coach Claude Julien recently offered a less-than-subtle interpretation for Krejci’s regular-season play: his No. 1 center is prone to an in-season vacation or two.

“You know, we often say that when there’s 82 games in the season, there are guys that get bored with it,” Julien said. “I know it’s not what people want to hear, but when I say get bored, it’s like trying to get up for 82 games is maybe not realistic.”

That’s probably a quote that should be studied by anthropologists for years, because it’s the rare time when an NHL coach seemed OK with his European star player mailing in a few games here or there during the regular season.

And the reason why Julien is OK with Krejci’s regular-season disappearing act is because there are few better than Stanley Cup Playoff David Krejci. That guy is like your buddy who volunteers to help you move your stuff into your girlfriend’s place, brings coffee and donuts in the morning, and when your girlfriend opens a box marked “knick knacks” and finds it’s full of 1970s porn, he takes full credit for it, explaining you were hiding it for him because of his sex addiction.

During the Bruins’ run to the Cup in 2011, everyone remembers Tim Thomas dazzling his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy. What some people fail to realize is that it was Krejci who led all scores with 23 points in 25 games and had four game-winning goals.

This season, he has been even more productive. He once again leads the league in points with 21 in 15 games and has four goals in three games against the top-seeded Penguins. Should the Bruins advance to the Cup Final, he has a really good chance to once again lead the NHL in postseason points.

While Krejci’s regular-season numbers align him with the likes of Okposo and Ryder, a second postseason scoring title would put Stanley Cup Playoff David Krejci on par with hockey royalty.

A few of the names that have won multiple postseason scoring titles: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Guy Lafleur, Bryan Trottier, Phil Esposito and Joe Sakic. The last player to pull a double was Peter Forsberg, who did it in 1999 and again 2002.

Krejci is an above-average-to-good hockey player from October to early April. After that, he raises his play to a Hall-of-Fame level. During the regular season, he has averaged a respectable 0.73 points per game in his career; in the postseason, that number balloons to 0.93 points per game, which is better than contemporaries Dany Heatley, Jonathan Toews, Ryan Getzlaf and Marian Hossa.

When you’re performing like that in the postseason, it makes a coach far more forgiving about regular-season inconsistencies.

“I mean, he makes plays, he shoots more; I think it’s really just the situation,” Julien said. “I think he’s one of those guys that really loves the playoffs and loves the intensity, the excitement that comes with it. He really gets up for those.”

“I don’t think I’m bored,” Krejci said. “I’m still trying in the regular season to do my best, in regular season [the playoffs] are still far away. But once you get in the playoffs the goal seems a little closer, you know. Maybe that’s why you bring your game at another level, I guess.”

On a lesser team, Krejci’s act likely wouldn’t fly. But he’s been lucky to find himself on one of the NHL’s deepest and most-talented teams the past four years. If the margin for error in the regular season was finer, there’s really no way Julien would have the patience he does. And based on the quality of competition in the Northeast Division rising, it’s likely Julien’s “it’s cool if he can’t get up for all 82 games” attitude will eventually dissipate.

But this also speaks to Julien’s coaching ability.

It’s hard to make the assertion without spending a lot of time around the Bruins, but from the sound of it, Julien has come to accept Krejci for who he is – a player with immense talent that isn’t going to bring his A-game every night during the regular season. So instead of hammering him over and over about effort and playing hard, Julien picks his spots with Krejci, knowing full well that 80 percent of Krejci is better than 100 percent of a lot of NHL players and he needs him feeling confident come playoff time.

This was the biggest issue when Krejci signed a three-year extension worth $15.75 million that takes him through next season. When Krejci signed, Joe Haggerty at NESN summed just about everyone’s feelings at the time:

“When Krejci isn’t playing with maximum effort and reasonable motivation, he tends to become a little more ordinary out on the ice than one would prefer for an offensive catalyst. That still happens far too often for a big money player, and it’s always a wise investment to give the big money – and subsequently the big cap hit – to players that exert the same kind of effort 82 games a season.”

As long as Krejci continues to perform like Gretzky and Lemieux in the postseason, the Bruins will look the other way on his double life. The problem will arise when the Bruins cease to be an elite, deep team that can contend for Cups or if Krejci bolts to a lesser team following the 2013-14 season. Based on movies and episodes of SVU, all double lives eventually collapse. If the Bruins let him walk after next season, the team that signs him better be positive they are contenders with a top-line center with motivation issues.

Leafs fan torture is the worst fan torture

Of all the unforgettable scenes from the movie “Fight Club,” the one that stands out to me more than most is when Brad Pitt and Edward Norton take store clerk Raymond K. Hessel out behind the building to supposedly shoot him in the back of the head.

Of course, The Narrator allows Raymond to go free to pursue his veterinarian degree. He’s given new life. “Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel’s life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.”

If there was ever a movie scene that encapsulated the final 10 minutes and overtime of Game 7 between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins, it’s that one.

There were the Leafs, out behind TD Garden, holding a gun to the Bruins head, asking them what they wanted to be in life. It certainly wasn’t this, a team that crapped away a 3-1 series lead to a heated rival. Raymond K. Hessel wanted to be a veterinarian; the Bruins wanted to win the Stanley Cup. All signs pointed to the Leafs shooting the Bruins in the back of the head; instead, the Leafs let the Bruins live, although it wasn’t their intention in this case.

Tomorrow and every day since has been the most beautiful in the lives of the Bruins. Instead of half-assing it and lollygagging through a disappointing season, they discovered newfound appreciation for life in the playoffs. They stormed through the Rangers in five games and are dismantling the Penguins.

While The Narrator felt good about what he did for Raymond K. Hessel, there was also a tinge of jealousy. For the Leafs and their fans, the latter appears to be the overwhelming sensation as they watch the team they let live march toward the Stanley Cup Final.

As a 16-year-old Devils fan in 1994, the Stanley Cup Final between the Rangers and Canucks was torture. To sit there and watch the Rangers futz around with a Canucks team that surely would’ve lost to the Devils if they could’ve just scored one more goal against Mike Richter was a gut-wrenching two weeks.

Sure, the Leafs were still three rounds from a Cup when they lost to their rival, but it doesn’t make what’s happened since that Game 7 loss any more palatable. In an effort to provide therapy (and let’s face it, entertainment) for Leafs Nation, I called for letters expressing what watching this Bruins run has been like. I wasn’t disappointed.

“Collectively, getting past the NY Rangers was something we could see happening, but we had to figure the ride would stop at Pittsburgh. Crosby. Malkin. No chance. But seeing Pittsburgh fall so flat early on only makes us wonder if we could have…you know…gotten to the Finals. But it feels like we’re not allowed to feel that feeling. It’s an insane, bitter thought. We may have given the Bruins their best test, but that best test also fueled this run they’re on. We are at once to be applauded and blamed. I can’t decide if I want them to lose horribly or win it all.”

Matt

That to me was the one thing I didn’t factor — the Leafs are actually the No. 1 reason why Boston has made this run. Think about it. If the Bruins win Game 5 or Game 6, are they filled with this confidence, with this feeling that nothing can beat them? I don’t think so. The fact that the Leafs lost the way they did was the springboard to the Bruins’ success. It was a once-in-a-lifetime collapse, but yes, it was the fuel that is driving the Bruins’ engine. Gone is the wishy washy team that disappeared at times and it has been replaced by a juggernaut. And it’s all because of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Being born just the year before the Gretzky high stick incident, I haven’t really experienced a definitive moment of total rage, shock and heartbreak as a Leafs fan. At least, I hadn’t until Game 7. I don’t think I will EVER get over what happened in that 3rd period. It went from being my happiest sports related memory, to the absolute WORST. So yeah, it’s safe to say I hate the Boston Bruins, and want to see them fail because of the pain they have caused me.

A friend of mine who is also a Leafs fan said that he would prefer the Bruins go on to win the Cup now, just so we could say “Well hey, at least the Leafs got knocked out by the Stanley Cup champs.” I could not disagree more. I would have preferred the Bruins to get absolutely destroyed by the Rangers. And to see them skating circles around the FREAKING PITTSBURGH PENGUINS makes me physically ill. Maybe this makes me a sore loser. But it should have been the Leafs, dammit! So now instead of watching my favourite team play hockey in JUNE, I’m curled up on my couch in my Maple Leafs blanket drowning my sorrows in Molson Canadian.

You were wrong, this didn’t make me feel any better.

Thanks for nothing.

Therapy is not guaranteed to work. No refunds. At least you are in touch with your anger. The only thing worse than an obnoxious fan who roots against teams is one who tries to act magnanimously about a team they hate. That hatred kept Darth Vader in power for what? Four decades? Hate can be good if managed properly.

And here’s something your friend who wants to see the Bruins win the Cup should consider: there’s nothing that is going to keep this Bruins-Leafs Game 7 from popping up when you least expect it for the rest of your life, but it will be 100 times worse should the Bruins go on to win the Cup. It will be the singular event that propelled the Bruins past the top-seeded Penguins and either the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Blackhawks or defending-champion Kings.

There will be books, videos and whatever other technology that is invented before you die. You will be 68 years old, sitting in an empty house with Leafs banners on the wall and your dozen cats urinating throughout the living room, and suddenly your Google glasses will show an advertisement for the 50-year anniversary of the greatest collapse in hockey history. You will strangle your cat as 72-year-old Tyler Seguin, who is now completely covered in tattoos, is hocking his book, “Make Like A Tree and Leaf: How Beating Toronto in 2013 Helped Get Me To The Hall Of Fame Which Is Located In Toronto Hahaha That Has To Hurt.”

I am certainly not a fan who roots for injuries but I am finding myself filled with rage when I watch the Bruins now. I hated Brad Marchand and his big stupid nose before, but I want him to feel pain. I want him to feel the pain the Bruins made me feel. I haven’t watched any of the Bruins games since that night. Now that there’s only two series left, I check the score at the end of the night and when I see the Bruins have won again, it hurts my stomach. Do I think the Leafs could be the team going on this run? Yes. The Rangers are awful and the Penguins are overrated. Every Bruins loss is like a knife to my stomach. I want to hurt them physically and emotionally. Thankfully, my wife and two-year old daughter are keeping me sane and keeping things in perspective.

Charles

I guess sanity is all relative.

Three letters: Comedy, Great Moments, I Don’t Know

Hi Dave,

You’re a funny guy. What are your favorite pieces of hockey-related comedy?

Love,
Kate

There aren’t many. I’m in the extreme minority when it comes to Slap Shot, which I imagine was hilarious in its day but puts me to sleep whenever I watch it. I do consider this scene the best in any hockey movie, period. It never fails to crack me up. I really liked Goon. I enjoy the work of Sean McIndoe. Harrison Mooney makes a good song parody. I find that hockey people are extremely funny in real life, but they tend to dial it back in their writing or on Twitter, which is disappointing. There’s not a whole lot of hockey/comedy fusion I enjoy, but it’s probably because I’m a snob who thinks he’s funnier than he actually is.

Hello David,

Since you’ve attended a decent amount of hockey games in the past few years, I was curious what some of your favorite experiences were. Best game or moment, best individual performance, etc.

Sorry for no Game of Thrones related content,

Jack from NY

That’s tough. Some are obvious, like as a reporter you get to go out onto the ice to do your interviews after a team wins the Stanley Cup. It’s unique and I’d be lying to you if I said it wasn’t a perk of the job. The loudest I have ever heard a building was HP Pavilion in 2011 when the Sharks finally cleared the zone in the final seconds of Game 7 against the Red Wings in the second round. The Sharks had lost three straight and when they cleared the zone in the final seconds, it was like 20,000 people erupting as one.

Others are just little things that are funny to me. Brent Sopel once yelled at me for standing on the Blackhawks logo in the locker room despite it being roped off and despite me being unable to stand on it. At a Rangers practice, Martin Biron’s young son started taking shots on me with a hockey ball because, well, he’s Martin Biron’s son and I’m just a reporter and he can do whatever he wants.

The best game I ever witnessed in person was a 1-0 Devils shootout win against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden in 2010. Martin Broduer made 51 saves; Henrik Lundqvist stopped 45 shots. I’ve never seen a game where everyone played at such a high level for all 65 minutes. Everyone was phenomenal. Thankfully it was decided by an super exciting Patrik Elias shootout goal otherwise I would never have remembered it. Shootouts!

I’m a Caps fan rooting for the Penguins so hey basically just f**k me, right?

Mark

Yeah. Sure. I guess. I don’t know.