If any of Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden return to health and get back in the Bruins’ lineup, the odds are that Torey Krug will find himself in the press box or back on the farm with Providence of the AHL.
Nonetheless, one game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs proved one thing about Krug’s future with the Bruins or anywhere in the NHL: he at worst has a career as a power-play specialist.
Krug’s game-tying goal early in the third period on the man-advantage in the Bruins’ win against the New York Rangers Thursday was only the highlight of a dynamic performance for the rookie on the man-advantage and at full strength. But during the 3-2 overtime win the put Boston ahead, 1-0, in the Eastern Conference semifinals heading to Game 2 on Sunday, Krug was clearly at his best when he had room to roam through the neutral zone, and especially along the blue line, during power plays.
“Well, he’s been a power play guy for them [the Providence Bruins], and as you know we’re getting thin here and we have to play with those situations and that’s one of the reasons that we did call him up was that we knew he could help us on the power play as well, besides his 5-on-5 play,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said Friday. “He battled hard on the walls and he may not be tall, but he’s pretty stocky, pretty strong and he’s really improved in his defensive play, battles along the walls, which is something that we’ve asked him to do. But the rest of his game has always been there, the ability to carry the puck, the ability to make plays, the ability to jump in there when he feels the time is right, and he’s pretty smart at sliding into those holes and also getting back into position.”
Ever since center Marc Savard was knocked out of the Bruins’ lineup in winter of 2011, the search has been on for someone to orchestrate the power play. For reasons difficult to explain, players like David Krejci, Tyler Seguin and Patrice Bergeron aren’t able to duplicate their even-strength success while a man up. Most often, general manager Peter Chiarelli has shopped for puck-moving defensemen, including Tomas Kaberle and Joe Corvo. Those experiments have succeeded minimally at best.
This season, Jaromir Jagr was acquired in part to help the power play. Instead Boston bumbled its way to a 4-for-30 finish in April and only scored three times in 20 tries in the first round against Toronto. Now injuries forced Krug into the lineup, and the Bruins’ power play was 1-for-4. More importantly, the power play generated 11 shots on net and created unbreakable momentum that led to Boston finally beating the Rangers in overtime.
Fellow rookie Dougie Hamilton, who’s played with Boston all season, had no problem figuring out exactly how Krug operates on the power play.
“I think, obviously, he’s been on the power play all year in Providence. And obviously puts up a lot of points,” Hamilton said. “So I think it’s easy to play with a guy like that and pretty much anyone here can kind of play power play or whatever. I thought we did well and I think just moving on we have to keep doing the same.”
Krug’s track record is impressive. He scored seven power-play goals in each of his last two seasons at Michigan State. This season he scored five power-play goals for the P-Bruins in 63 regular-season games.
In addition to his speed and accurate shot, Krug showed a knack for walking the blue line and finding shooting lanes against Rangers players that block shots as often as they breathe. He said that practicing that tactic every day at Providence, and experience playing against the Rangers’ Connecticut farm team, helped him succeed in Game 1.
Whether he’s able to keep up his production the rest of this series or playoff season, or even gets to play in another game this season, is the lead story in the present with Krug. But if you’re Chiarelli, the idea of having Krug, Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski available to boost the power play in the near future has to make you salivate. Krug is just 22. There’s plenty of time to improve on a solid foundation in his game. Even if he can’t make his 5-foot-9 frame work on a full-time basis in the NHL, Krug should at least be able to apply his power-play skills for a long time at the sport’s highest level.