Throughout his 14-year NHL career, David Krejci has been the most consistent producer on the Boston Bruins second line. Krejci has proven to be a strong playoff performer despite the constant shuffling of his linemates. As the Bruins head into the Stanley Cup playoffs, the questions about Krejci’s wingers continue to grow.
David Krejci King of the Second Line
Krejci has spent the majority of his career centring the Bruins second line. Since his first full season in 2008-09, he’s tallied over 40 points in 10 of 12 seasons. When surrounded by strong linemates, Krejci brings out the best in them. However, he hasn’t always been surrounded by such.
In Krejci’s first two seasons on the second line, he was paired with Blake Wheeler and Michael Ryder. Krejci put up 125 points in 161 games in those seasons, solidifying him as Boston’s second-line centre.
After Wheeler was dealt, Krejci’s line was upgraded with Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton. In 2010-11, Lucic and Horton were alongside Krejci for over 60 percent of faceoffs taken. That number jumped to over 80 percent of the time by the 2012-13 season.
In his first full season alongside Krejci, Lucic would score 42 points, the most in his career at that point. He followed it up with 62 points in 2010-11 and 61 points in 2011-12. Horton scored 26 goals and 27 assists in his first year playing with Krejci while earning the highest plus/minus rating of his career.
Krejci and his linemates settled into their roles as one of the strongest second lines in hockey — becoming a key contributor to the Bruins 2011 Stanley Cup championship.
Horton left after the 2012-13 season and Lucic was traded in 2015. Krejci was back to square one in finding solid linemates — he’s still searching for them.
Despite struggling to find consistent linemates, Krejci has been able to hold his own. Since the 2015-16 season (when Lucic was traded), Krejci is averaging 0.76 points-per-game. Just a tick above the 0.75 points-per-game in the eight seasons before. It’s an impressive showing when his wingers seem to change on a weekly basis.
Since the departures of Lucic and Horton, the linemates around Krejci have been a revolving door. Horton was replaced with Jarome Iginla, who saw success in Boston but left after one season.
Griffith played 34 games for Boston. Pastrnak established himself as a star and a first-line talent. Spooner played 197 games in Boston (mostly on the third line) before getting traded. Eriksson and Backes both spent one full season on the second line with Krejci. It resulted in their best seasons in Boston. Heinen saw an ample amount of time with Krejci but was traded at this year’s deadline. Kuhlman and Bjork haven’t had the opportunity for many second-line minutes in their young careers.
Since Lucic was traded in 2015, Debrusk has been the only player to find a home alongside Krejci. According to evolvinghockey.com, Krejci has been paired with Debrusk more than any other player in the previous three seasons. While Debrusk has been solid, he’s been inconsistent and the faces on the other side of the line have come and gone.
The Bruins are still searching for someone to fill the right-wing position on the second line. It’s been a search that’s yielded very few results in recent years.
As for the future of Krejci’s second line, the questions are as big as the answers. While Debrusk has spent the majority of his career alongside Krejci, the second-line duo has been struggling to produce as of late.
This season, Krejci and Debrusk averaged 2.08 goals for per 60 minutes while on the ice together. That is the same as Debrusk’s rookie year in 2017-18 and down from 2.7 goals for together per 60 minutes during the 2018-19 season.
Bruins head coach, Bruce Cassidy, wasn’t afraid to voice his displeasure in the lack of production coming from Krejci and Debrusk. “They have to start getting results,” Cassidy said after Tuesday’s practice.
Cassidy then decided to change things up again by moving Debrusk to the third line alongside Charlie Coyle and Anders Bjork. Cassidy paired Krejci with Nick Ritchie and Kuhlman during Wednesday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. Neither line produced a point in the game.
Newly-acquired winger, Ondrej Kase, is set to return to the lineup on Sunday. Since being acquired at the trade deadline, Kase and Krejci have played together for just 54.8 minutes.
With limited action skating with the Bruins, Kase is their last hope to spark a second line that has gone dormant. A lot is riding on Kase’s performance. Boston hopes he can become a mainstay alongside David Krejci and fix one of the team’s biggest issues.
Kase has a lot of catching up to do and if he doesn’t produce it will leave Boston with major questions heading into the offseason. Debrusk is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason while Kase is under contract through the 2020-21 season.
The future of the Bruins second line could depend on their performance in this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.