BOSTON – Clearly there are going to be peaks and valleys for a 22-year-old rookie defenseman in their first NHL season.
Those ups and downs will probably be even more extreme for a D-man like Torey Krug, who has taken the NHL by storm with his offensive abilities from the blue line. Krug had gone 11 straight games without a goal and had some defensive miscues along the way – including a play that led to a Winnipeg goal in the first period of Saturday’s game –but the B’s defenseman always has the capability of exploding with offensive.
He did just that following the costly turnover on Saturday, and scored a pair of goals in the 4-1 victory over the Jets at TD Garden. In doing that he did what all good offensive players do: they make up for any defensive shortcomings in their game by canceling it out, and then burying it with created offense.
“He’s been that guy for us for most of the year, and a guy that’s capable of doing that,” said Adam McQuaid of his defensive partner. “He’s been for the most part pretty consistent for his first full year. It brings an element to our [defensive] core that we need. So it was nice to him get rewarded tonight.”
The two goals and assist on Boston’s first three scores of the day gave the Bruins all of the offense they would need, and signaled that any slumps involving the exciting young player are all over. True to his team orientation, however, Krug was hoping his first goal had actually gotten a piece of fellow rookie Justin Florek as the 6-foot-2 forward camped in front of Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec.
He did admit to feeling a little pressure to score after busting out of an 11-game slump where he’d had zero goals, three assists and a minus-4 rating amid some mistakes that cost his team goals against.
“A little bit. Any time you aren’t contributing the way maybe you were before, you get frustrated. It’s frustrating, but it’s all about forgetting, and putting it in the past. Forgetting about it and making plays to move forward. That’s what we do.,” said Krug. “All you can do is help the team win and when you’re not contributing it’s tough.
“But it is a good feeling when you get the first one. Actually I was hoping Flo [Justin Florek] got his first NHL goal. I was hoping he tipped it, but it was nice [to end the dry spell.]”
Krug did miss the final few shifts of the game after catching a high-stick in the mouth area, but looked like he was going to live while speaking with the media about his two goals following Saturday's game.
The day didn’t start out great for Krug as a rushed line change saw the puck on his stick in the neutral zone, and the rookie turned it over to a rushing Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff got by Krug and eventually smoked a shot through Tuukka Rask from beyond the left face-off circle.
But that was it for the Krug bad times on this day. Following that Krug uncorked a slick cross-ice pass to a wide open Daniel Paille to tie things up in the first period, and then scored a pair of goals off point shots in the second period. The aforementioned first goal went through a Florek screen in front of the net, and the second bounced off Jacob Trouba’s stick in front as he battled for position with Carl Soderberg.
The two goals give Krug 10 goals in his rookie season with the Bruins, which makes him only the fourth B’s rookie defensemen since NHL expansion – along with some guys named Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque and Greg Hawgood – to hit that goal total in their first NHL season.
Not too shabby.
“Terrible. Two goals, one assist,” said Claude Julien with a broad smile on his face. “If you ask me my opinion on the player himself, [Krug] has had a great year; he’s been a player for us. That’s been my opinion on the player, but we are talking about different things that we want him improving, and those are areas that he’s heard from us.
“Where does he rank, he ranks pretty high for a guy that’s in his first year. He’s been put into those kinds of situations. Our power play has been as good and he’s been good at it. He’s been a big part of that success. A lot of good things [come from] moving the puck and carrying the puck up ice, and he’s been a great asset to our hockey club. [He’s an] asset that we have been looking for, for a long time.”
That puck-moving, play-making asset is now back in one of those rookie peaks rather than the valley, and leads all NHL defenseman with 10 goals scored while ranking third among all NHL rookies with 23 points.
Yeah, that Krug is pretty good.