Bruins' Krug wide-eyed after NHL debut

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Bruins' Krug wide-eyed after NHL debut

BOSTON -- It hasn't hit him yet. And how could it?

It wasn't too long ago that Torey Krug was Michigan State captain, in his junior year. He was a Hobey Baker Award finalist. And weeks later, he's suiting up for the defending Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins.

"This is what you dream of, the second that you're put up on ice skates," said Krug after making his NHL debut on Tuesday night at the TD Garden. "And I was put up on skates the day I could walk. So, I've been around hockey my whole life, and this is a dream come true."

Krug signed an entry-level contract with the Bruins last week, and had been practicing with the team, when he was told, following Monday's skate, that he'd be playing on Tuesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The game didn't mean much to the Bruins and their playoff hopes. They've already clinched the division, and they know they're going into the playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the East.

So it was a perfect time to get the 20-year-old, 5-foot-9 defenseman some playing time.

"It was a lot of fun, something Ill remember forever," said Krug. "Unfortunately, we didnt get the result that we wanted, but it was a lot of fun.

The Bruins lost 5-3, and Krug was on the ice for four goals -- two Bruins goals and two Penguins goals.

He finished with no points, but played over 18 minutes, which stood as the third-most minutes on the team, behind Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg.

"I thought he handled himself well," said Bruins coach Claude Julien. "I liked the way he moved the puck. I think everybody who knows the game realizes that he's a good puck-mover. His mobility was obvious.

"The only thing I would tell you is that, you could see him in the defensive zone, really thinking about trying to play within our system. And sometimes he was maybe just a fraction of a second delayed, which is totally normal. But once he knew what he had to do, he went. There was no hesitation, once his mind was made up. And that will only get better, as it becomes second nature. That's totally natural for a guy playing in his first game.

"But the rest of it, when he had the puck, he didn't hesitate," added Julien. "I thought he moved it well and made great passes."

Krug isn't eligible to play in the playoffs. But the experience on Tuesday night was something he'll never forget.

"I dont even know if its hit me yet," said Krug after Tuesday's game. "Its awesome. Ive come in, and its a tough time to come into a locker room, but all the guys have been very well receptive and Im very thankful for that.

"The biggest advice I was given was have fun and be myself. You know, when it comes down to it, its just another hockey game and its just a level higher. All the guys said, Have fun, youre going to remember this for the rest of your life.' And I think I did that."

Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

Celtics-Suns preview: Boston focused on Phoenix, not playoff standings

BOSTON – Brad Stevens spent time talking to his team on Thursday about what everyone around them will be talking about between now and the playoffs – catching Cleveland. 

After Boston’s 109-100 win over Indiana and Cleveland’s 126-113 loss at Denver on Wednesday, the Celtics (46-26) are now just one game behind the Cavs (46-24) for the best record in the East. The Celtics hope to continue on their winning ways tonight against Phoenix which is coming off a 126-98 loss at Brooklyn on Thursday night.

As cool as landing that top seed overall in the East would be for the Celtics, Stevens is well aware that it can be a huge distraction that impacts their chances negatively in continuing to play good basketball and rack up wins if there's too much attention paid to it. 

“What we need to focus on is preparing for our next opponent,” Stevens said. “Our focus needs to be on Phoenix, not on anything else.”

The Celtics have already experienced the downside of what can happen if you pay too close attention to playoff positioning. 

Earlier this month, Boston began losing ground as the second-best team in the East to Washington, which eventually moved ahead of Boston briefly during a stretch in which the Celtics lost three of four games. 

“All we did was look at the standings, everyone looking at the standings,” said Boston’s Avery Bradley. “But we were losing games; we weren’t focused. We came together as a group, and said we can’t worry about where we are. Let’s worry about that when the time is right. Right now, we need to focus on every game and focus on getting better as a team.”

While that may be the Celtics’ collective purpose right now, it's hard to imagine that Boston can completely look past the fact that they can wind up with the best record in the East despite all the injuries, illnesses and stretches of inconsistent play they have had this season.

At least one player – Isaiah Thomas – has no plans of trying to ignore what’s happening around the NBA in regards to other team’s playoff position and how that relates to the Celtics who are focused on finishing with at least one of the top-two seeds in the East. 

“That’s the ultimate goal; get the best seed you possibly can whatever that is,” Thomas said. “We have a chance at number one, we’re a game behind them (Cavaliers). But at the same time, we just have to control what we can and worry about the things we can control and not worry about if Cleveland wins or loses.”

For Boston, the blueprint for success has already been laid out in these final 10 games, most (seven) of which are against teams that are .500 or worst record-wise.

“Just playing the same kind of basketball we played (against Indiana on Wednesday),” said Boston’s Kelly Olynyk. “Just hard on both ends of the floor, play together on both ends of the floor; just Celtics basketball.”

The Celtics might also have some added motivation against the Suns who beat them 109-106 as time expired earlier this season.

With the score tied at 106 with a few ticks left on the game clock, Thomas mishandled the in-bounds pass from Jae Crowder, resulting in the loose ball winding up in the hands of rookie Tyler Ulis who drained a game-winning 3-pointer. 

“It was a tough loss,” Thomas acknowledged. “But I’m the type of guy whether it’s good or bad, I forget about it the next day; I try to if I possibly can. That was a crazy ending, but things happen in the NBA. You just have to move on.”

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

Bruin players talk the talk after failing to walk the walk vs. Lightning

BOSTON -- All the Bruins -- the leaders and the core veteran group -- were front and center on Thursday night, taking accountability for what had just happened on the ice.

It was ugly: Boston frittered away three one-goal leads in the second period and then came totally unglued in the third period, allowing three consecutive goals in a 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden. There were moments when focus and concentration were clearly an issue, and other moments when the Bruins lacked their usual discipline with veteran players were taking some ill-advised penalties.

With pressure mounting as the Bruins, losers of four in a row, appear to be headed towards their third consecutive late-season collapse out of the playoffs, the players were saying all the right things while vowing to move forward with eight games left.

"I think it's not good enough from top to bottom," said David Backes. "I'll be the first guy to point fingers at my chest and say I need to be better. Tonight was certainly not our best when it's that time of year [and] you need your best every night to win, no matter who you're playing against or what the circumstances may be. This one certainly hurts . . .

"But now's not the time to not be giving ourselves a chance to win and we need to be doing that every night. Tonight, we didn't and we've got eight games left and they all need to be really good-to-great ones so that we can find our way into these playoffs."

Backes finished a minus-2 with just a single shot on net and seemed a step behind Tampa Bay most of the game, so it was proper to him to call himself our for personal ineffectiveness. But as interim coach Bruce Cassidy put it, responsibility for Thursday night -- the low point of the Bruins' season -- rests on "Player 1 through Player 20". And all 20 of the Bruins will be needed to find a successful way out.