BostonBruins.com – Chris Kelly took an indirect feed from Reilly Smith off the boards and dished the puck back towards the blueline – directly in the path of a streaking Torey Krug.
The second-year defenseman launched a bomb that beat Florida netminder Scott Clemmensen high on the glove side, giving the Bruins a 3-0 lead with 11:07 left in the third period. The Bruins would end up winning 4-1.
The goal was Krug’s sixth tally on the season. Through 17 games, he trailed only Milan Lucic (seven goals) on the Bruins and was still tied with Ottawa’s Erik Karlsson for first place in goals among all NHL defensemen.
The offensively-minded Krug might have room to grow defensively as he gains more experience at the NHL level, but his offensive skill is significant enough to make up for the occasional defensive mistake. The growth is an organic process, and the B's know that the rewards of his play also come with risks.
“There’s no doubt he’s been better offensively than defensively for us, but he’s still been a good player; he’s given us exactly what we want,” Julien has said. “And right now we just continue to work on helping him out with the other part of the game that is a bigger challenge for him than the offensive part.”
“He’ll get smarter and smarter and figure out how to win those battles along the boards and not always have to use his strength versus his smarts and everything else.”
Krug is leading the pack of a new brand of Bruins defenders; players who create the kind of offensive production that has Julien very satisfied with the results.
“That’s what we talked about for years now – that we needed some guys who could carry the mail, as we say, and jump into the plays and he [Krug] did a good job again tonight,” Julien said. “He seems to find the right times to jump in and get some opportunities.”
Krug's ability to jump into the play takes an elite kind of hockey sense and confidence. The latter of which Julien says comes from the experience of playing in more games - both in the regular season and last season's playoff run.
Dougie Hamilton, another second-year defenseman playing a significant role, has showcased his keen offensive sense as well.
Instinctively choosing the moments to charge deep into the zone, or join the rush, Hamilton also has the abillity to consistently get shots through. He put up three goals of his own through his first 11 games of the season.
With the infusion of quick, young defensemen adding a new focus on offense, veteran defenders Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg have gotten more involved in producing points as well.
The effort from Krug and his fellow D-men to jump into plays and try to make things happen creates a calculated risk. Should they mishandle a puck or mess up timing, an odd-man rush for the other team is very likely.
However the job is one that requires the confidence to pick the right spots, while understanding that sometimes mistakes will be made.
"For a team to have success I think you have to get production from your back end; especially these days," said Krug. "And I think what really helps us out is that we have solid goaltending behind us and it gives us the confidence to jump up in the play."
"We’re going to make mistakes and there’s going to be odd-man rushes against us. We try to limit that but we do our best to help out on the offensive side as we take care of the defensive zone."
It’s a risk that Julien doesn’t mind taking, given the results.
“If he does [make a mistake], it’s going to happen once in a while,” he said. There’s always a risk and reward; you want to minimize that risk.”
“But right now I think he’s doing well offensively so, certainly not going to take that part of his game away from him.”
"Offensively, I think he’s been a breath of fresh air for our hockey club."
---Written by Ethan Hartley for BostonBruins.com