BOSTON -- After Boston Bruins rookie defenseman Torey Krug was thrown into the lineup because of injuries to three veteran blueliners, he lit into the New York Rangers with four goals and five points in his team's five-game triumph in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
From there, the first-year pro could have become a flash in the pan.
With just three games of NHL experience, all in the regular season, prior to joining the Bruins lineup for Game 1 against the Rangers, the 22-year-old was an unknown quantity. Surely against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final, the book on him would be common knowledge and he might have to change his game or become overwhelmed by the magnitude of his situation.
Well, with the Bruins building the 2-0 series lead they'll carry into Game 3 Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS) at TD Garden, Krug has been every bit as impactful for the Bruins against the Penguins as he was against the Rangers.
He assisted on one of Boston's six goals in Game 2 Saturday with a shot through traffic that led to Nathan Horton cashing in on the rebound. Krug created several other chances and continued to be a key puck-carrier for the Bruins when beating the Penguins' forecheck.
"Pittsburgh's definitely different than the Rangers. I think it all comes back to being the same player that I was against New York," Krug said after the morning skate Wednesday. "Trying to be efficient, playing with the puck more than the other team, taking control of that puck and keeping care of it. So it's just all about efficiency and not putting yourself in bad situations."
When you can skate with the lightning quickness Krug possesses, even bad situations can turn into positives within the snap of one's fingers. One Krug neutral-zone giveaway in Game 2 turned into Penguins forward Chris Kunitz dashing ahead of Krug from the red line with a two-stride advantage. By the time Kunitz was in a position to score, though, Krug had caught up and blocked the shot.
Krug's speed opens offensive opportunities for himself and his teammates. But it also allows other Bruins defensemen, especially his regular partner, Adam McQuaid, some room to roam on the defensive end.
"Because he can skate so well, he's able to get up and he's able to get back. He's able to keep a tight gap, and if someone chips it he's able to turn and go. Yeah, I guess, it makes it fun to play with a guy like that," McQuaid said.
The Krug phenomenon has had everyone in Boston at the edge of their seats since he scored in his playoff debut May 16 against the Rangers. Fans are buying his No. 47 T-shirts in the pro shop. Some fans have more prestige than others, and Krug's been in contact with one of the greatest Bruins players ever, one who has been a close observer of the team since his retirement: Hall of Fame defenseman Ray Bourque.
Krug became close with Bourque's son Chris this season while they were playing for the Bruins' American Hockey League affiliate in Providence.
"After games, Ray Bourque has texted me a few times," Krug said. "They're a good family. Ray, who he is, is a good guy for me to look up to. He's been sending me very encouraging text messages.
"It's a great feeling. He's a guy that I watched growing up, and you idolize and you hope one day that you can make an impact on the game the way he did."
SOG: 18 | +/-: 4
"I never had the greatest shot as a kid growing up. I was always a smaller kid with the weak shot," said Krug, who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 180 pounds. "So it's something that you always have to work on. I had a great one-timer at Michigan State, and when I came to Providence I kind of let it slip. It was one of those skills that I kind of took for granted. I thought it was just going to come naturally, and I let it slip a bit. And then halfway through the season I wasn't scoring many goals or getting great opportunities. So I started working on it with our assistant coach down there, Kevin Dean, and it's something I continue to work on. It's something you can't let slip away."
The Penguins probably wish Krug had let that one-timer slip a bit more. They'll undoubtedly have to keep plans for stopping it as part of their strategy. And if Krug continues to produce with it, he won't slip out of the Bruins lineup any time soon. Fellow rookie defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton exited the lineup when veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference returned from injuries, but Krug has remained part of the starting 18 skaters.
"I mean, obviously every time you're given an opportunity you want to make the best of it," he said. "And that's something that I really concentrated on. You know if the coaching staff wants to go a different way, then that's their decision. But I'm just trying to do whatever I can to obviously stay in the lineup and help contribute to the team."