BOSTON — The Boston Bruins’ top line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak might be the best in hockey and they eviscerated the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs last year. That trio no doubt will be a focal point for the Leafs when the Stanley Cup playoffs open Thursday.

But recent history has shown that, if the Bruins are going to make a long run, they will go as David Krejci goes. In their two runs to the Stanley Cup finals, Krejci led the league in playoff scoring both times – in 2011 when it resulted in the Cup win over the Vancouver Canucks, and in 2013 when the Bruins lost in the finals to Chicago.

While those two special playoff seasons may seem like ancient history to some, Krejci thus far has been enjoying one of the great throwback seasons in the league. While flecks of gray are evident around his temples these days, the nearly 33-year-old Krejci matched his career best in points with 20-53-73 totals, equaling the 22-51-73 output he rang up in 2008-09, his first full NHL season.

Considering the injuries the Bruins suffered this year, they very easily could have been starting this upcoming series in Toronto, in Tampa Bay as a wild card or, worse yet, not in the playoffs at all had Krejci not excelled this year.

“I think David is an underlying MVP to our season, to be honest with you, really a catalyst for our group this year,” GM Don Sweeney said Monday. “Might not have gotten the prime attention that several other players deserved and merited, but very consistent year for David, start-to-finish. You’re seeing the development of Jake DeBrusk, and the year that he had, and David, a lot can be attributed to that. His numbers are not tilted toward power play, he ran the second unit. Certainly, stepped in when Patrice was out. And it’s a lot of what David expects of himself.

“He was healthy this year. It took a lot of ownership individually … working on his nutrition, working on his training and evolving as a player as you get older, and that’s something that you have to do. He was healthy this year, which is a credit to our training staff and to him. He deserves a lot of credit for where we are as an organization, and he’s generally played his best hockey in the playoffs, so that’s exciting for our group as well.”

There are a few reasons for his bounce-back season, coming long after many fans had forgotten he once was this team’s No. 1 center. He played 81 games and could have gone all 82 had the team not decided to rest him for a game. Also, the maturity that comes with domesticity – he’s now married with two young children – has led to him both staying home at night and, in turn, getting to the rink earlier. While he’s been blessed with some continuity on his left side with DeBrusk, he also hasn’t been bothered by the revolving door on his right side. It looks like he’ll start Game 1 with rookie Karson Kuhlman playing there.

“The balance is important,” Krejci said. “I try to do the things that I do, whether it’s at home taking care of the kids or being here, working out, paying attention in the meetings, things like that. Just trying to do the best I can do, in the moment. Once that’s done, I move on and try to be even better in the next thing. I’m just trying to do one thing at the time.”

Krejci also was re-energized by playing with Marchand and Pastrnak when Bergeron was injured in the first half of the season.

“Yeah, it was a great opportunity for myself, playing with two really good players. It was nice to play alongside with them. We won lots of games as a team when I was on their line. That definitely felt good. I know I can still do it, right?” said Krejci, whose even-strength points (57) are second only to Marchand (59) on the team. “But I knew it wouldn’t last because Bergy was coming back. I just tried to stay humble in a way, keep working on my game because I didn’t want to get back with JD and whoever was on my right side and think that everything was going to come easy. I just wanted to keep that momentum going.”

It’s been a terrific season for Krejci. But when the team convened for captain’s practices in September, no one knew what kind of season the Bruins would get out of him. The team had made a very public pitch for John Tavares and, while no one has definitively said Krejci would have been dealt if the team landed Tavares, the money that center got from Toronto ($11 million a year) made it plausible Krejci (who earns $7.25 million) could have been dealt. It certainly left a few questions in Krejci’s mind.

“We’re all human, right? It is what it is,” said Krejci, who sat down with Sweeney before the season started to clear the air. “We talked. He obviously told me what he thinks about me and how important I am to this team. That’s it.”

Does it give him any more motivation going against Tavares and the Leafs in the first round?

“I already have enough motivation. I don’t need any extra things like that,” Krejci said. “Things happen in this environment. He’s playing there, I’m here. I just want to beat those guys. We’ve created a pretty good rivalry the last couple of years. It’ll be a good matchup. But there’s nothing personal with me and Tavares.”

Krejci does indeed have a postseason reputation to uphold. After one particularly effective game for Krejci, a night when he somehow was able to slow everything down in this increasingly fast game, the crafty center earned praise from DeBrusk.

“‘Playoff Krech’ is the Krech I grew up watching, the one all Bruins fans know and love,” DeBrusk said Monday. “What I mean by that is whenever we need him, or I need him or whenever somebody needs to get leaned on, he comes to play, he makes the exceptional play at the right times. He’s a proven playoff performer. And when he does something sick, when he’s weaving out there, that’s ‘Playoff Krech.’ It’s pretty special.”

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