KREJCI-DEBRUSK PAIRING GETS ANOTHER LOOK
Cassidy hopes the two can click again
The Bruins were the best team in the NHL in its coronavirus-truncated regular season, and not by a small margin.
They won the Presidents Trophy by six points over the closest competitor, the St. Louis Blues, who had played one more game; and led the league in goals against average (2.39), were second in power-play (25.2%) and third in penalty killing (84.3%).
What is amazing is that they were able to accomplish that with their second and third lines in flux for much of the season. That is at least partly because the chemistry between second-line center David Krejci and his left wing Jake DeBrusk was, for whatever reason, not nearly the same as it was in the first two years of the partnership.
At the time of the stoppage in March, coach Bruce Cassidy had split up the two, moving DeBrusk to Charlie Coyle’s line and creating an Anaheim East line with Krejci skating between recently acquired former Ducks Nick Ritchie and Ondrej Kase.
But with time short to prepare his team for the the opening round-robin game against the Flyers on Aug. 2, Cassidy will go with what he knows to start, reuniting DeBrusk with Krejci in the first two days of training camp. The pairing may not have the same hand-inglove familiarity that the Patrice Bergeron-Brad Marchand tandem does, but Cassidy figured it was worth a try.
He’s not married to the idea, but he wants to give the pair a chance to rekindle the bromance, so to speak.
“Sometimes absence makes the heart grow fonder, so maybe they’ll reconnect after a little time away. They’ve had good chemistry in the past,” said Cassidy after Day 2 of this twoweek camp. “They’re not Marchie and Bergy simply because they haven’t had the reps or the years of work. And Jake isn’t in Marchie’s category in terms of time in the league and resume. Certainly Krech and Bergy are similar. You’ve got to give that a little more time to grow.
“So we’re going to go back to it. If we don’t like what we see in some of the round-robin or practices, then Jake goes back with Coyle and we try probably Ritchie (with Krejci) or somebody else. But we’re going to give it a look and see where it’s at. I still think it’s early, until we start getting into some good 5-on-5 even within our own group, and see how they play against live competition, then we’ll see where it leads. We tried different things because we made deals at the deadline and tried to get guys in the most comfortable position. We didn’t feel like we were breaking up a real hot duo, so it was probably as good a time as any to do it. My guess is, if the pause hadn’t happened, we probably would have gone back to Krech and DeBrusk at some point after a little time apart. So we’re doing it now.”
Krejci was first paired with DeBrusk in the Edmonton native’s rookie season two years ago and, last season, they made good on the promise they showed. Krejci tied his career high in points (20-43-73) and DeBrusk potted 27 goals.
But while each player had good individual spurts this season, the pair simply didn’t seem to click. They were split up a couple of times during the season. Krejci wound up with 1330-43 totals in 61 games and DeBrusk finished with 19-16-35 in 65 games.
Just two days into camp, Krejci was not ready to venture a guess as to whether the pairing can regain what it once had.
“Right now it’s just about getting up to speed,” said Krejci. “It’s really good to be out there with the guys in practices and just being out there, feeling the puck. I feel like in the next week or two we’ll be working on some things as a line and as a team. That’ll come. But right now I think the most important thing is to just get up to speed, get the compete level up and go from there.”
It would also help to get the full roster into camp. David Pastrnak and Ondrej Kase missed their second straight day to fulfill their quarantine
obligations. While Pastnak will go back with Bergeron and Marchand, Kase could well wind up on Krejci’s right side.
“I think there are lots of possibilities,” said Krejci. “Honestly, we didn’t get as many games as we would have liked to because of the virus going around and everyone knows (Kase) hasn’t been there (Monday and Tuesday) because of the NHL rules on the quarantine for 14 days. Hopefully he’ll be back soon and we can get some reps as a line and create some chemistry.”
With real games a little less than three weeks away, time is of the essence.
David Krejci, right, drinks from a water bottle during practice on Tuesday at Warrior Ice Arena.
Bruce Cassidy speaks to the team during practice Tuesday. He said he is inclined to put Jake DeBrusk to the left of David Krejci because they have had success together before and there is not much time between now and the resumption of the season on Aug. 2.