Torey Krug started the postseason trying to help the Providence Bruins win the Calder Cup. A month later, the rookie defenseman is a major reason the Boston Bruins are one of four teams that still have a chance to win the Stanley Cup.
The undrafted college free agent was a unanimous choice by NHL.com writers as the top rookie at the halfway point of this year's Stanley Cup Playoffs. He received every first-place vote from the nine-person panel, who each chose a top three.
A first-place vote was worth three points, a second-place vote was worth two, and a third-place vote received one.
It's quite an achievement for a 22-year-old who had played three regular-season NHL games before being recalled by the Bruins after veteran Dennis Seidenberg was injured in Boston's 5-4 overtime victory against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Krug scored four times in five games as the Bruins rolled over the New York Rangers to reach the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
"It's unbelievable, the poise he has with the puck. It's nice to see a guy like Torey play so well," Seidenberg said. "I don't know if it's out of nowhere. There's got to be a reason [the Bruins] wanted him so badly. I think they knew what they had. ... That's why they called him up and that's why they played him -- because they knew he was something special and he has shown it every game so far."
Krug's play was special enough that when Seidenberg returned for Game 5 against the Rangers, first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton was the player who was scratched.
"I'm 5-9, I'm not very big, I have to play with the puck to be an impact player," he said. "So, for me, you've got to be confident with the puck. If I'm not making plays, I'm not going to be effective and guys are going to go out there and they're just going to find a 6-2 guy that can do the same thing without the puck. So you've just got to be confident and play with the puck."
Krug's move from Providence to Boston might have cost his minor-league club a shot at the AHL championship. Providence led the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 2-0 in their best-of-7 second-round series when Krug was recalled; without him, Providence became the third team in AHL history to lose a playoff series after winning the first three games.
Though no other first-year NHL player has matched Krug's playoff impact, several stepped in and didn't look out of place.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, a 20-year-old forward for the Ottawa Senators, had the first hat trick of this year's playoffs after scoring the winning goal on the final night of the regular season. He was second in our balloting with seven points. A pair of first-year Detroit Red Wings, forward Gustav Nyquist and defenseman Brendan Smith, were tied for third place with five points apiece.
Others receiving votes: Matt Bartkowski, Boston, 4; Emerson Etem, Anaheim, 4; Jake Muzzin, Los Angeles, 1; Joakim Andersson, Detroit, 1