When the Bruins traded for Chris Kelly just prior to the trade deadline, many people questioned the move. Tight to the NHL’s salary cap ceiling, the move made some scratch their heads in who they were getting in return for a second-round draft pick. Some fans and media alike labeled Kelly as a “more-expensive Gregory Campbell”.
After coming to the Bruins from the Ottawa Senators, Kelly didn’t do much to spark confidence in Bruins fans. In 24 games with the Bruins, Kelly had just five points (two goals). Heading into the NHL’s second season, many Bruins fans didn’t expect much from Kelly.
After a grueling hard-fought seven game series victory over the Montreal Canadiens, Kelly is tied Nathan Horton with three goals this post season, and has also pitched-in with three helpers.
The line of Kelly, Michael Ryder, and Rich Peverley was arguably the best line for the Bruins in the series. With Kelly and Peverley both joining the Bruins at the trade deadline, it’s a bit of surprise that the trio has found success in the playoffs.
“Yeah, it’s always nice to contribute offensively. When I came in here, I didn’t have the greatest start to coming here, but I’ve adjusted and feel more comfortable with my line-mates and it’s nice to like I said contribute and help the team win.” said Kelly.
Bruins legend and current team president Cam Neely has also been pleased with the play of Kelly.
“Peter [Chiarelli] knows [Chris] Kelly from the Ottawa days and liked his game and what he thought he could bring to the team with his experience when we lost [Marc] Savard as a center-man and knew we couldn’t replace that type of player up front,” said Neely. “Kelly has done a great job for us, no question. His game elevated in the playoffs actually.”
Head coach Claude Julien has also noticed the elevated play of Kelly.
“He’s adapted so well. Not only has he’s been good production-wise, but he’s such a reliable player,” Julien said. “He does all those little things right. Not very often you see him make a mistake that turns into a scoring chance for the other team. He’s become very vocal as well. He felt very comfortable in that dressing room and even on the bench. I hear him talking a lot and he certainly keeps guys in line”.
Take a deeper look into Kelly’s three goals against Montreal, and you’ll realize how timely the goals by Kelly really were.
In Game 3 with the Bruins clinging on to a one-goal-lead and Canadiens goaltender Carey Price on the bench for the extra attacker, Kelly flew down the ice, fighting off the attack of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, and put the game away with an empty-net-goal that got the Bruins back in the series.
With 6:18 left in Game 4, and the Bruins trying to avoid facing a 3-1 series deficit, Kelly found himself in the right place at the right time, and buried home a loose puck to tie things up. The game would head to overtime where Ryder would even the series up with the overtime winner.
In Game 7, with the hearts of Bruins nation in their stomachs, Kelly would do it again. With just under 10 minutes to go in the third period, Kelly once again found him-self in the dirty area, and banked home a loose rebound off of a shot from the point — although he wouldn’t take all the credit for his goal.
“I think Rich [Peverley] kind of had the puck and cut to the middle and I drove the lane and I think he dropped it to [Andrew] Ference and he got a great job getting his shot through and the rebound was just there and I just happened to tap it in,” said Kelly.
The goal looked like it would be the game-winner, but Subban had other plans when he scored on the power-play with just under two minutes to go.
Once again Horton would score the overtime winning goal to send the Bruins into the second round.
Kelly knows that getting to the dirty areas is a key to playoff hockey.
“Yeah, I think the pretty goals in the playoffs don’t come off unless you’re Bobby Ryan [Anaheim], but I thought we did a good job of getting to the net and getting traffic,” he said. “And like you said, scoring kind of those ugly goals.”
The Bruins and their fans don’t care how ugly the goals are, as long as they keep coming.