David Krejci on the NHL playoff format, false teeth and Jaromir Jagr

Think of the Boston Bruins.

Think of the standard-bearers for that organization in recent years. The hulking presence of Zdeno Chara springs to mind, as does the machine-like dominance of Patrice Bergeron. There’s Brad Marchand, with his antics and his goal scoring. There’s Tuukka Rask, who’s either maligned or beloved, depending on the month. There’s the next wave of Bruins stars like David Pastrnak, their brilliant young winger, and Charlie McAvoy, their 21-year-old defenseman.

David Krejci‘s name isn’t always evoked when discussing what makes the Bruins a consistent contender in the NHL. Perhaps it’s because he’s a center playing in Bergeron’s shadow, or because we don’t heap praise on middle men who have hit 70 points only once in their careers and make $7.25 million against the cap, making Krejci the team’s highest-paid forward.

Yet Krejci has had a regular gig with the Bruins for 13 seasons. At 839 games played, he’s just 21 appearances away from cracking the top 10 for the Bruins in that category. This season’s been exceptional for him, with a 0.86 points-per-game average thanks in part to 41 assists. That he’s been this effective as a playmaker with the parade of different wingers on his line — Krejci’s seen more Bruins this season than an admissions officer at UCLA — is equally exceptional.

We caught up with Krejci recently to discuss the team’s success this season, his countrymen and the recent birth of his son.

ESPN: Congratulations to you and your wife, Naomi, on the birth of your son back in January. I know it’s your second child after already having a daughter, so are things a little easier this time?

David Krejci: It’s fun having two, one of each, but at this stage he doesn’t really do much. Our daughter is going to be 4 in the summer.

ESPN: Was it tougher this time having the delivery during the season, rather than the offseason?

Krejci: It was a little bit different. But also really harder on my wife. Obviously, at the end of the season, you have a lot of open time. This time around, she has a newborn and a 3½-year-old at home. It’s definitely challenging … I don’t know how the women do it. I try to help out, try to be there for her on the road. But she’s sacrificed so much … it’s crazy. She deserves so much credit. I love coming home to see them when I’m on the road. Can’t wait to get back home.

ESPN: There are such expectations for the Bruins this season, but it appears you guys are locked into a matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s arguably the second and third best teams in the conference meeting in the first round. Does that format bother you?

Krejci: Maybe when they first started this format a few years back, it did. But now we’ve accepted it. If you want to win the Cup, you have to beat the best teams. So at the end of the day, the format doesn’t really matter. Maybe down the road they can change the format again. We’ll see. Right now, we have to focus on this, secure home-ice advantage. It looks like Toronto, but who knows? We have a few games left here.

ESPN: As far as your season goes, you’ve managed to put up some of the best offensive numbers of your career while playing with an ever-changing cast of linemates, from Jake DeBrusk to Brad Marchand to Charlie Coyle. How do you handle that lack of consistency on your line?

Krejci: For me, nothing really changes much. Obviously with different players, the chemistry’s not always there, so you have to simplify your game, which I’ve had to do recently. But I just have to get ready, play my A-game and try to help my teammates out. When I play well, I make my linemates better.

ESPN: One of the players you had on your line briefly this season was David Pastrnak, and I was curious about your relationship with him, as a fellow Czech.

Krejci: He’s a great friend of mine, and a great player. Obviously, speaking the same language always helps. There’s always someone you can talk to when something’s on your mind. But he also gets along with everyone else on the team. His English was good after playing two years in Sweden. Just a great kid.

ESPN: You called him a “kid.” What’s the dynamic between you two? Friends? Big brother, little brother?

Krejci: I think we’re just buddies. Maybe when he first came here and he was 18, I was a big brother as I showed him the ropes. But he’s one of the leaders of this team now, though he’s 23 years old. Right now, I wouldn’t say it’s not father and son or anything like that. We’re just buddies, enjoying each other’s company on and off the ice.

ESPN: He’s a bit of a goofball.

Krejci: He’s different. Definitely lots of energy in him, which is fun to be around. He brings the kid out in you.

ESPN: Speaking of goofy stuff, what was it like last year when your former teammate Johnny Boychuk, now with the Islanders, returned a tooth you had lost on the ice to the Bruins’ bench?

Krejci: [Laughs] I didn’t know about it until after the game. Those teeth were already fake. I couldn’t put them back in. So I had to go to the dentist for a few hours, which wasn’t fun. Johnny’s a good friend of mine, so I appreciated the gesture. But I still had to get new teeth. And then a couple of weeks later in San Jose, I got them knocked out again on what was an innocent play. I found them on the ice, the ref gave them to me and I put them right back in.

ESPN: Finally, I wanted to ask you about another countryman: 47-year-old Jaromir Jagr. Can you believe he’s still playing professionally?

Krejci: No, I cannot. It’s pretty impressive. I know he hasn’t played much this year because of injury, but he’s playing with Kladno in the second division and trying to get them back in the first, into the top tiers. They have to win one more playoff game, and then they have a shot at moving up again. I played for them one year before heading to junior in Canada. Obviously, I wish them the best. The city’s nice.

ESPN: What did it mean for you to play with Jagr in Boston?

Krejci: Obviously, it was great, and going all the way to the Cup Final was pretty special. We were so close: one game away from a Game 7. If we had won, to celebrate with a player like [Jagr] would have been incredible. Maybe we could have shared our day with the Cup. That was definitely something I was thinking about when we were in the Final, but unfortunately it didn’t happen. Growing up, all you saw and heard was Jagr. All the highlights was just him. So it was awesome to be able to skate alongside him.

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