It seems as though every year at the trade deadline, fans of the Boston Bruins wait for the team to make a big splash in the market. Last year, GM Peter Chiarelli finally made a splash, acquiring much sought after puck moving defenseman Tomas Kaberle from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In return, the Leafs got a first round draft pick, a conditional pick, and minor league forward Joe Colborne. This was going to be the move that led the Bruins to make a deep playoff push.
Well, the Bruins were 2011 Stanley Cup Champions but many say it wasn’t because of Kaberle, as evident by his quick departure after the season.
The acquisition of Rich Peverley from the Atlanta Thrashers (for forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart) , as well as acquiring Chris Kelly from the Ottawa Senators for a second round pick, gave the Bruins the depth they needed in the forward position.
And Chris Kelly has delivered.
This year, in his first full season with the Bruins, Kelly has set a career high in goals with 18 through just 73 games. He needs five more points to break his career high (38 points in 2006-07). Kelly has been superb defensively, as his +/- rating is a fantastic +28, good for second best on the Bruins, and he averages 1:49 a game killing penalties, which is the most for Bruins forwards, even Patrice Bergeron. Chris Kelly has earned the respect of Bruins Nation.
But it wasn’t all rainbows and lollipops, either.
Trying to find his place on the team, Kelly struggled. Is his first 20 games with the Bruins, Kelly had just two assists and was a -2, earning some criticism from fans and media alike. But he found his touch in the few games going into the playoffs, netting two goals and an assist in the last four games of the regular season.
But the real feat that earned my respect, the one that I felt made him a true Bruin, happened in the first round of the playoffs. Early in Game 3 against the Montreal Canadiens, Kelly was driven into Montreal’s goalpost by Hab forward Scott Gomez. Kelly left the game with a severe facial injury. He came back for Game 4, sporting a cage over his face, and netted a goal and two assists in the Bruins 5-4 overtime win. His goal tied the game late in the third when he shoved home a loose puck past Carey Price, and one of his assists was in overtime when, from behind the net, he hit an open Michael Ryder who put it home for the win.
Kelly did not miss a game with that facial injury, and has not missed a game since joining the Bruins. In fact, Kelly has missed just nine games in his NHL career, this being his 7th season, and eight of those games were in the 2007-08 season.
Kelly has been a leader in the locker room as well, as he has been given partial Alternate Captain duties with defenseman Andrew Ference. Patrice Bergeron is a permanent Alternate Captain. Even Ottawa Senators General Manager Bryan Murray made note of that when he traded Kelly, saying he was one of the most respected players on the Senators.
Chris Kelly has emerged as one of the most important players for the Bruins, not because of staggeringly high scoring numbers, but because he plays in all areas of the ice at all times of the game. He has truly earned the black and gold “Spoked B” on his jersey.