BOSTON — Torey Krug only has five NHL regular-season games to his name. When the puck drops on the 2013-14 season Thursday night, he’ll most likely be in the lineup playing his sixth career regular-season game.
But it’s what happened in between those regular-season contests — between March 27 and Thursday night — that Krug gained a wealth of knowledge and experience. Activated prior to Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers, Krug was thrown into the fire right away.
All he did was score the game-tying goal against Henrik Lundqvist and force the Bruins to keep him in the lineup for the rest of the playoffs. He certainly earned the honor, too. In 15 playoff games, Krug scored four goals and added two assists while tripling his NHL experience in a span of just a few weeks. He was there all the way with the B’s playing into the Stanley Cup Final as a 22-year-old kid.
Krugamania ran wild in Boston as spring turned to summer, and the rookie became something of a folk hero, at least for a month or so. But the playoffs are now in the past, and Krug is presented with a new set of challenges.
Despite his early success on the Boston blue line, the young D-man had to earn a spot on the roster during this year’s camp. He’s battled with fellow youngsters Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton for the final defensive spots on the roster. Because of his power-play prowess and puck-moving ability, it’s assumed that Krug will be one of the six Boston blue liners who takes the ice Thursday against Tampa.
It would certainly be well-earned, as Krug has picked up right where he left off. He plays with an undeniable amount of confidence evidenced by his ability to rush the puck up ice or dance the blue line as the quarterback of the power play. Playing such a pivotal role in a team’s march to the Cup Final can do that for a player.
“Confidence plays a huge part in that,” Krug said of his ability to hit the ground running this season. “I was able to contribute to a playoff run and we went pretty deep. The fact that I was able to contribute to a winning team really bodes well for my confidence and that’s what I’m going to try to continue to do.”
There were lessons to be learned along the way last spring. Sometimes the game can overwhelm young players. With Krug, it was the complete opposite. His skills translated right away, and the Michigan State product proved that he belonged while simultaneously stepping right in and filling a hole for the B’s.
He found, quite frankly, how simple the game can be when you just go out and play. Krug isn’t blessed with any sort of immense size or stature, but he’s certainly blessed with a ton of skill. He was able to make the most of that skill by simply keeping things simple, something he learned by taking the lead from one of the team’s veteran leaders.
“I like to look at different players and look at them and learn from them,” Krug said. “Some of them will say ‘You have to watch the smaller players to learn,’ but I get to watch someone like Zdeno [Chara] every day and how simple he plays the game and that relates to me. The game’s going to be easier. That’s what amazed me, how easy you can make the game and have success. If I don’t do that, I’m going to be struggling.”
The struggles will inevitably come. That’s part of the deal. While Krug has seen a good amount of success in his short time at the NHL level, there have been some valleys, too. Krug’s four goals came in his first five games, and he was held goalless in the final 10 games of the postseason. Some even wondered if it was time for him to sit after a costly turnover in the Bruins’ Game 1 loss to Chicago in the Stanley Cup Final.
How Krug is able to deal with the failures as well will be telling in how he grows as a professional. Not only can he draw on those postseason experiences, he can turn to a handful of veterans, especially on the Boston blue line with the likes of Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk and Adam McQuaid all there for support.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Krug said. “There are a lot of guys you can lean on and ask questions to. It’s amazing how open these guys are to answering questions. It’s been a great mix of personalities especially back on the blue line. We’ve got a great group of guys always willing to help each other out.
“Even if it’s us three [Krug, Bartkowski, Hamilton] competing for a spot, we’re still looking out for each other trying to help each other. It’s just a great group of guys; it helps a lot having these guys on your side.”
There weren’t many expectations of Krug just a few months ago. Things have changed quite a bit since. There isn’t any reason to believe Krug can’t live up to those expectations, though, simply because he’s already proved he can be that good.