BOSTON — Torey Krug is a very good offensive player, but his goal is to become a more well-rounded defenseman capable of excelling in a top-four role.
Kevan Miller’s injury has forced the Bruins to shuffle their defense pairings a bit, and at Tuesday’s morning skate, Krug was with Dennis Seidenberg on the second pairing. Krug has spent most of the season on the third pairing alongside Miller.
With Miller out of the lineup indefinitely, Krug now has an opportunity to show he can play a top-four role, which could put him in tougher defensive positions against better competition than he normally sees.
“It always comes down to being responsible, that’s what I’ve been trying to do,” Krug said Tuesday. “I talked to management and the coaching staff last season on how I wanted to become a top-four defenseman and get rid of the offensive defenseman title. That just comes with responsibilities — it’s a good test for myself. The thing is everybody in here plays against everybody, the bottom half of our D-core, we match up against different lines. So it’s not going to be any different.”
It’s easy to see why Krug is thought of as an offensive defenseman. He’s a tremendous playmaker, has a powerful shot from the point, quarterbacks the power play very well and jumps into the play when he sees a chance to create offense. His 40 points (14 goals, 26 assists) led all rookie D-men last season, and he has two points through seven games this campaign.
Krug has started 72.12 percent of his even-strength shifts in the attacking zone, which leads some people to believe he’s not able to be trusted in most defensive zone situations. The real answer is the Bruins have better options to start in the defensive zone, such as perennial Norris Trophy candidate Zdeno Chara. Krug’s strength is his offensive game, so it makes sense to put him in a position to succeed when the Bruins earn an attacking zone draw.
“I think he’s a pretty good defenseman,” B’s head coach Claude Julien said. “He’s shown some good offense, and right now, we’ve talked about his defense improving. He’s not a big guy, he’s not going to out-muscle guys, he’s gotta outsmart guys. That’s what you want, but at the same time, when he plays on those kinds of pairs, it gives him an opportunity to play with top lines, too, that could use the offense. So there’s a lot of things that go into play, and sometimes the other team might have real big heavy guys, and we think he’s better off playing on the third pair, so that’s coaching.”
To be fair to Krug, he doesn’t need to spend a ton of time defending because the Bruins consistently out-shoot their opponents when the 23-year-old is on the ice. His 66.67 Corsi-for percentage shows that Boston takes two-thirds of the shot attempts between both teams when he’s on the ice. Sometimes the best defense is a good offense, and the B’s usually are on the attack when Krug is in the middle of a shift.
Krug isn’t a terrible defensive player by any means, and he has shown good improvement in this area of his game since he debuted as an NHL player late in the 2011-12 regular season. With that said, becoming a better defensive player will remain Krug’s focus for the foreseeable future.
“I’ll always have it, even if I do become a top-four D-man here,” Krug said. “I’ll always have that (title of an offensive defenseman), but within the locker room, guys understand the roles that certain guys have. It’s something I want to get rid of, but it’s going to take some time. Over time, I’ll become more responsible, and I’m still learning how to play defense at this level. I’m enjoying it.
“A lot of times last year, I noticed — everybody (makes) mistakes throughout a game — but for whatever reason at times last year, the mistakes I was making were ending up in the back of our net. Being able to put our fires when you can, because those come against the top lines, so you got to be able to do that. It’s all about responsibility.”
Photo via Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY Sports Images
Advanced Stats via War on Ice
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