BOSTON – Shawn Thornton was just speaking casually about his diminutive rookie teammate after the Boston Bruins wrapped up their Eastern Conference Semifinal series with the New York Rangers on Saturday when he Thornton let slip what he calls Torey Krug.
"Those kids have stepped in, especially Freddy, he played unbelievable, not even just the points," Thornton said.
Turn Krug into a hockey nickname and you get "Kruger." That becomes Freddy Kruger, and it's appropriate considering the 22-year-old was a nightmare for the Rangers.
Krug's fourth goal of the series helped the Bruins to a 3-1 win at TD Garden and a 4-1 series victory. He became the first NHL rookie defenseman in the post-expansion era to score four goals in his first five playoff games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Krug finished the series with four goals and assist; his five points led the Bruins in scoring against the Rangers. He also moved into a share of the lead for a goals by a defenseman and goals by a rookie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
"I didn't think it was very realistic. I was watching Game 7 just like you guys were, very excited when they came back," said Krug, who played one game with Boston during the regular season. "And then sitting there I realized [Seidenberg] was out the whole game. You kind of think ‘Oh, maybe something's coming my way.' But I was so focused and indulged in our playoff run down there in Providence [of the American Hockey League] that I didn't really think about it until I got the call from [assistant GM Don Sweeney]."
Every time you think Krug is going to wake up from his blissful dream, he keeps it going. In Game 5, it took him until the second period to light the lamp. He had just jumped on the ice during a power-play line change when he set up for Tyler Seguin's pass to the top of the right circle. Krug's one-time deflected off goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's arm and into the back of the net to tie the game 1-1 with 3:48 elapsed in the second.
"You always hope that guys can come in and help your team out," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "There's no doubt he was magic for us in this series. To score that many goals and show the confidence that he showed playing in this series is pretty outstanding. He's a player that we've always felt good about in our organization. As I said, he's shown what he's all about. We said ice in his veins and that's what he's got."
To think 14 months ago, the Bruins were in competition with a few other teams to sign Krug, who left Michigan State after three seasons. The Bruins allowed Krug to join them rather than go to the AHL at the end of last season. He wound up skating in two games for Boston before the playoffs started.
With the short training camp this season, Krug didn't have much of a shot to crack the NHL lineup in his first professional season. He logged major minutes with the Providence Bruins, and in 63 games he totaled 13 goals and 45 points. He played in all situations and honed his game. All the while, he was sweating it out wondering if he'd ever get a NHL call this season.
"I was a little bit frustrated at times. I was playing very well, putting up points, and playing well defensively as well -- doing whatever they asked," Krug said. "At times it got a little frustrating. But I would always take a step back. I had a great veteran in Garnet Exelby to lean on, and he would tell me that these are the most important times down in Providence, the most important experience that you can get for your development. I'm just glad that I got to spend the time that I did down there."
Maybe if Krug had gotten the call sooner, he wouldn't have been as ready to produce. It seems the Bruins elevated him from the AHL just in time to strut his stuff and contribute to their second trip the Stanley Cup semifinals in three years.
"It's been a crazy year," he said. "When I signed, I chose Boston for this reason. I wanted to win a Stanley Cup. I knew that they expected to win the Stanley Cup year after year, and I knew that we were going to be in contention every year. I'm glad that I just got the opportunity to come in, step in and contribute and try to help the team win. It's been an unbelievable year, for sure."