Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, who used to cheer for the Detroit Red Wings as a young kid growing up in Livonia, Mich., is one of the players responsible for the Original Six franchise being on the brink of elimination entering Saturday’s Game 5 at TD Garden.
Krug has played exceptional in this first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. Through four games, he has made an impact at both ends of the ice by creating scoring chances with his play-making skills and playing consistently strong defense with his physicality, good positioning and willingness to block shots.
It’s the type of all-around performance that the Bruins expected from Krug after his sensational rookie season.
“(Matt] Bartkowski is another young defenseman and (Torey) Krug is just – they’re just continuing to do what they did last year for us,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said after Friday’s practice. “They’re moving the puck well, they’re carrying it when they have the space, and to me the difference is probably just from the amount of experience they have gained throughout the year.”
Experience does play a huge factor, especially for a young defenseman. After playing in the Stanley Cup Final as a 22-year-old and helping the Bruins win the Presidents’ Trophy in his first full NHL season, Krug has become a better and more prepared player.
“It’s been a crazy season,” Krug said before Game 5. “It’s made a big difference in my game individually. You’re called upon in a lot more situations. I think the coaching staff has felt a little more comfortable with me, putting me out in certain situations, whether it’s a defensive-zone faceoff or late in the game. They’re not sheltering me as much.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot and feel more comfortable this season.”
He certainly looked comfortable Thursday night in Boston’s 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4. Krug was the catalyst for the Bruins’ offense, which struggled mightily in the first period (out-shot 15-5) and was unable to generate many quality scoring chances. Krug got the B’s on the board in the second period with a rocket of a power-play shot that beat Red Wings goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
Boston’s power-play dominance begins with Krug, who opens shooting lanes with quick passes and scores goals with an accurate slap shot, usually from the blue line or faceoff circle. He tied for the team lead in power-play points (19) during the regular season, and his six power-play goals ranked second behind Zdeno Chara’s 10. The B’s have a 40 percent success rate with the man advantage against the Red Wings, and it’s not a coincidence that Krug has been on the ice for 50.1 percent of Boston’s total power-play time.
Krug generated many more Grade A scoring opportunities in Game 4, several of which his teammates failed to convert on, including a slick pass to Brad Marchand, who failed to score on an open net.
Krug ranks second on the Bruins in points (three), second in power-play points (two) and fifth in total time on ice through four games. The advanced stats also paint Krug in a positive light. His 51.8 corsi-for percentage (puck-possession stat) ranks seventh on the team (second among D-men), and the Bruins are averaging 5.3 percent more shots than the opponent when Krug is on the ice (highest among defensemen).
Krug is displaying much more poise with the puck and confidence than he did in last year’s playoffs. He’s making fewer mistakes, committing less turnovers and making the smart plays by slowing the game down and being patient.
As he gains even more experience, Krug will continue to be an important part of the Bruins’ postseason success.