BOSTON -- After 24 regular season games as a member of the Boston Bruins, many wondered if Chris Kelly was the right fit.
General manager Peter Chiarelli coughed up a second-round pick to the Senators in exchange for the forward's services, a pretty hefty sum given Kelly's solid though hardly spectacular offensive numbers throughout his career. And while Kelly came as billed on the defensive side of things, his production was paltry at best.
Now, after a series in which he racked up a team-leading three goals and a total of six points -- trailing only Patrice Bergeron's seven -- those that once doubted and openly criticized the acquisition of the 30-year-old forward are singing a different tune.
"Not only has he been good production-wise, but he’s such a reliable player," coach Claude Julien said, as he seemed to admit wondering if both Kelly and fellow newcomer Rich Peverley were what the Black and Gold needed at one point. "He does all those little things right. Not very often do you see him make a mistake that turns into a scoring chance for the other team."
In addition to his raised confidence on the ice, Julien noted that Kelly has become quite comfortable taking on a leadership role off of it, too.
"He’s become very vocal as well," the coach said. "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."
Kelly came up big once again in Boston's 4-3 overtime victory in Game 7, scoring what was nearly the series-winning goal midway through the third period, only for P.K. Subban to tally with under two minutes to go, forcing the extra session.
Nevertheless, Bruins goalie Tim Thomas sang No. 23's praises after the win.
"Chris Kelly has probably been in different game sevens with Ottawa," said Thomas. "I think his experience showed this series. He was one of our best players."
Kelly spearheaded a remarkable series by both he and linemates Michael Ryder and Peverley. Together the trio combined for an impressive 14 points in the low-scoring, seven-game set, with a collective rating of plus-10.
The fact that most of the six goals they scored against Montreal won't end up on highlight reels doesn't upset Kelly one bit. They all count the same at the end of the day.
"Yeah, I think the pretty goals in the playoffs don’t come unless you’re [Ducks forward] Bobby Ryan, but I thought we did a good job of getting to the net and getting traffic," said Kelly. "And like you said, scoring kind of those ugly goals."
Kelly admittedly didn't perform up to snuff in those first two dozen regular season tilts. But chipping in now is what matters most and he's certainly more than happy to have done so.
"Yeah, it’s always nice to contribute offensively," he said. "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 linemates and it’s nice to contribute and help the team win."
While Kelly wouldn't say it, there's no doubt silencing a sea of critics feels pretty good, too.