Haggerty: Krug making giant impact vs. Rangers

Haggerty: Krug making giant impact vs. Rangers
May 19, 2013, 10:00 pm
Share This Post

BOSTON – He didn’t end up scoring the game-winning goal, and he didn’t even break 15 minutes of ice time in Sunday afternoon’s 5-2 win over the New York Rangers in Game 2 at TD Garden.

But make no mistake about it, 22-year-old rookie Torey Krug enjoyed a titanic impact in Boston’s Game 2 win over the Blueshirts with a pair of points in the game’s first two periods, and has been a key contributor in Boston’s 2-0 series lead over the Blueshirts in the best-of-seven series.

Who would have ever thought that a week ago when Krug was toiling away with the Providence Bruins in an epic AHL showdown with the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins?

Now the rookie is cracking open the B’s record books.

Krug became only the fourth Bruins player to score goals in each of his first two career playoff games when he opened Sunday afternoon’s scoring with a play requiring the highest of skill and poise. Krug took a pass from Nathan Horton that was slightly behind him as he sped through the slot, slid the puck between his legs to get it on the forehand on the inside edge of the left circle, and then fired a shot past a seemingly stunned Henrik Lundqvist.

Only Cooney Weiland, Don Gallinger and Tyler Seguin during the Stanley Cup run two years ago have accomplished the same feat, and Krug is giving Boston the same kind of electric jolt Seguin pumped up Boston with two years ago against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Finals.

The Rangers stormed right back to tie the game in the first period, but Krug was back at it again creating instant offense in the second period. This time he made a slick play to keep an errant pass from leaving the offensive zone, and kicked the puck away from the blue line with his stick before finding another shooting lane.

Lundqvist kicked away the left point shot from the offensive defenseman, but Gregory Campbell gobbled up the rebound and fired it home for Boston’s second goal of the game. The Rangers tied the game again less than a minute later, but Krug’s offensive derring-do helped open up New York’s defense for five goals.  

The 5-foot-9, 180-pounder wouldn’t be blamed if he was cautious or tentative after getting dropped into a pressure-filled environment with the Bruins, but Krug has showed zero fear while doing things his way.

That was the one big message that Claude Julien wanted to get across to the youngster when he suited up for the second round series against the Rangers with a grand total of three NHL games under his belt. Some young defensemen can be a little timid in their first NHL experiences under duress, but Krug certainly seems to be playing with joy, rather than abject fear, in his heart.

“I said, Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.’ I don’t want him playing on his heels," Julien said. "In other words, I told him, ‘don’t be afraid to make mistakes and play your game.’ So that was basically what I told him when he first got here. I said, ‘You know, I know how good you are, I know what you can bring to this team, just go out there and do it.' I think it’s important, but the last thing you want to do is get those guys to play on their heels or play afraid to make a mistake.

"Confidence goes a long way in this game. When coaches are able to give players confidence, it shows because it makes a big difference. Instead of a guy making a mistake and looking at the bench every time, seeing if the coach is mad at him or will take away some ice time. I give him full credit for taking that advice and showing he’s very capable of playing in the playoffs and on our hockey club.”

It’s pretty clear he’s feeling something bordering a ridiculous level of confidence when he’s doing his thing: wheeling around the point on the PP with impressive speed and aggression, and making solo rushes up the ice that start behind his own net with fore-checkers chasing after him. He did both of those things in his 12 plus minutes of ice time, and both daring offensive plays turned into positives for the Black and Gold.

“A lot of [confidence] you can tell from a player’s first three strides with the puck, and I think I’ve got that right now,” said Krug. “When I have the puck my first three strides are always forward, and that’s something you do when you have confidence.

“I’m not scared to make mistakes, and [the Bruins coaching staff] is a big part of it. In practice talking with the other players they’ve been really comfortable on the ice, and they’ve told me if I have a shot to take it. There are a lot of really smart hockey players in here, and they know when it’s the right time to take a shot…and when not to.”

Krug along with 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton and 24-year-old Matt Bartkowski have given the B’s a major life in their transition game, and sparked the offense to eight goals in their first two postseason games against King Henrik. They’ve also impressed the rest of their teammates, who have been uplifted by their jolt of youth and speedy skating legs.

“They’ve been amazing. They’re making a case for themselves to stay in the lineup and that’s what you need,” said Johnny Boychuk, who has also set a pretty amazing example while blocking an NHL-best 35 shots in the playoffs. “You want to stay in the lineup and the way that they’re playing, they’ve been playing very, very good and responsible, and even in the D-zone.

“I’ve been watching, and they’ve been battling hard and doing the right things. That’s what you need.”

As Boychuk alluded to, the question now goes beyond simply making plays in the playoff lineup for a guy like Krug. It’s about putting an idea in the B’s coaching staff’s mind that if they feed the offensively gifted defenseman more minutes, he will be able to produce points, continue to aid a transition game that’s been excellent against the Rangers and show he’s ready for a steady NHL gig. As it is now he’s doing a good job of battling forwards like 6-foot-7 Brian Boyle that he finds himself squaring off with in the defensive zone.

“When I came in I just wanted to help the team win, and I think I’ve been able to do that. But the minute you get satisfied is when you start to get behind,” said Krug. “You’re always making an impression. I’m making an impression with you guys [in the media] right now. When I’m out on the ice I’ve got my head down and I’m working as hard as I can.”

Given that the Bruins have some salary cap decisions to make after the season is over, and injured defenseman Andrew Ference will be an unrestricted free agent, the emergence of Krug in the Stanley Cup playoff is giving Boston a window into what the future holds for the Black and Gold blueline.

With two goals in his first two playoff games, saying that future looks awfully bright would be a Chara-sized understatement.