Like that comfortable, well-worn oversized sweatshirt you find yourself putting on year after year, David Krejci is always there when you need him.
For the Boston Bruins, they need the 34-year-old Czech centerman most when the playoffs roll around. And like Santa on Christmas Eve, Krejci finds a way to deliver.
Krejci scored a power play goal during Game 5 against Carolina Wednesday, then assisted on Patrice Bergeron's man-up marker with 3.5 seconds left in the middle stanza, helping guide the B's to a 2-1 victory and a quarterfinal series triumph.
"Obviously, we all love playoff Krech. He’s unbelievable," said David Pastrnak, who returned to the Boston lineup after missing the last three contests. "So much experience and his hockey patience is incredible ... I can’t even tell how good of a player he is. He always seems like he makes a great play. Just when you think he’s going to lose it, he always finds a way to recover and make a great play."
Krejci led the Bruins with 3 goals and 5 assists for 8 points in this series. If you count the three round robin games the Bruins played prior to facing the Hurricanes (and why the NHL is doing that is beyond absurd, but that's a story for another day), he has 3-6-9 totals. This is hardly surprising for a guy who led the entire NHL in playoff points in the Bruins' Cup winning 2011 campaign (12-11-13) and again in 2013 (9-17-26).
For a guy who's seemingly always been overshadowed in his 13-year career — and understandably so — by the higher profile and more consistently well-rounded Bergeron, Krejci just goes about his business without much fanfare as one of the league's best No. 2 pivots.
He's steady, respected and never complained about the rotating case of right wings he played with for much of the regular season (although he seems to have discovered strong chemistry with Ondrej Kase). And you certainly can't scoff at a player who owns 38-72-110 totals in 139 postseason games, including 8 game-winners (2 of those in OT).
Krejci has never liked talking about himself. When asked after Wednesday's game about his production in the Carolina series, he stated, "We had that great game plan; we knew exactly what to do, how to beat these guys. We stuck with it and all four lines, they chipped in. Every game was a different line. That’s what you need in the playoffs."
While that's true, he fails to mention the large part he played in that, especially offensively. Others, though, are more than happy to do that for him.
"We scored some big goals, and obviously Krech was a big key on the power play," said Pastrnak.
Boston's bench boss, Bruce Cassidy, mentioned a particular play during his team's Game 3 win last Saturday in which Krejci, playing the wing, made a "composure play" along the wall under heavy pressure from the Hurricanes with 35 seconds to play in a one-goal contest, flipping the puck to Brad Marchand for the empty netter to seal it.
"He's a real competitor, good team guy, well-liked in the room, quiet ... I think a good hockey mind," continued Cassidy. "You can always talk to him about the game and get good responses and good dialogue ... he just doesn't show it maybe like some other people would, because he's kind of more of a composed guy that way. But (he's) certainly one of the more fierce competitors in terms of inner drive that I've been around here."
It's also why, after conferring with both players, Cassidy chose to keep Krejci on the left elbow of the power play for Game 5 — a spot he took while Pastrnak was out of the lineup — in an effort to get him more involved with the top man advantage unit while moving Marchand to the spot in front of the net.
Krejci could've put a giant exclamation mark on his series-long dominance with a power play dagger midway through the third period. But alas, his one-timer at a gaping Carolina net from the far circle rang off the top crossbar.
OK, so he's human. That's not news.
But neither is it when he's coming up big for the Bruins — again — in the playoffs.
Phil Stacey, the Executive Sports Editor of The Salem News, covers the Boston Bruins for the North Of Boston Media Group and CNHI Sports Boston. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @PhilStacey_SN