PITTSBURGH – One area where the Bruins will be looking for a little more electricity and offensive spark is on the power play, and their new trigger man in rookie defenseman Torey Krug.
After the 22-year-old cranked out four goals in five games against the New York Rangers in the second round of the playoffs, the gifted offensive defenseman was bottled up pretty nicely by the Penguins in Boston’s 3-0 win Saturday night in Game 1.
While fellow rookie Matt Bartkowski was scratched with the return of Andrew Ference, Krug stayed in the lineup and managed to get off just one shot in 15:09 of ice time in his first taste of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Bruins power play went 0-for-4 in the win, and never really got on track until the third period. While only a small portion of that responsibility falls on the shoulders of Krug in his first time experiencing such high-stakes playoff hockey, he’s putting the onus on himself to be a little bit more involved.
But Krug also knows he needs to play a balanced game against a Pittsburgh team that will do damage if a defenseman pinches or gets a little too aggressive at the wrong time.
The Penguins are much more dangerous than Boston's second-round opponent in that regard.
“[Pittsburgh] plays a lot differently than New York,” said Krug. “I felt like I didn’t have as many opportunities to jump up in the play, and that might have caused me to play back defensively a little bit more. But the style of game I play is picking and choosing the right moments.
“If I’m too risky then I’m not going to play much, because they’ll capitalize on those opportunities. We can’t afford that. We expect them to come out hard [in Game 2]. They’re a great team and we know they don’t want to go down 0-2 going back to Boston. We’ll expect that, and try to return the punch.”
Claude Julien resisted speaking specifically about Krug because he didn’t feel the need to be negative after a good, but not great, first game against the Penguins. But he did acknowledge the subtle differences in skating against the Rangers and the Penguins in this season’s playoff run.
“I don't really want to critique a player's game more than say he's been good for us. [Krug] has done what he's had to do,” said Julien. “That's not to assume that he wasn't good. Just because he scored four and five, and didn't score the last game, doesn't make him a bad player, does it? He's been good.
“He moves the puck well. Obviously there's a big fore-check going on here and so far it’s a physical series. He's handled himself well. He's going to be fine. He's a great asset to our hockey club, and we've seen what he's done for us with the puck, and also on the power plays. We have all the confidence in him, and that's why he's still in our lineup.”
It would seem to be only a matter of time before Krug's sizzling one-timer and his dazzling skating speed factor into the Boston offense against the Penguins, just as it was inevitable that a four-goals-in-five-games pace wasn’t going to be sustainable.
Krug on the power play is a part of the Black and Gold arsenal they could certainly use in an Eastern Conference Final that’s just getting warmed up.