Rookie defenseman Krug providing thrills for Bruins
BOSTON -- If Torey Krug remains in the Boston Bruins' lineup for the remainder of this Eastern Conference Semifinal, the New York Rangers are going to have to find a way to scare the rookie defenseman.
Defense - BOS
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 3
SOG: 5 | +/-: 2
Because right now he's not only fearless, he's turning the series into a horror show for the Rangers.
In the lineup only because Dennis Seidenberg joined Andrew Ference and Wade Redden as an injured veteran Bruins defenseman before the start of this second-round series, Krug punished the Rangers again with his accurate shot and offensive skill in Game 2 Sunday.
Krug scored his second goal of the series and added an assist in the Bruins' 5-2 win. Boston leads the best-of-7 series 2-0 with Game 3 Tuesday at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, RDS, TSN).
Asked if he should be at least a little scared on the ice, Krug replied, "Maybe I should. I don't know, but for me, if I do that, I'm going to get myself in trouble …. I was just trying to go out there, not fear anything, don't be scared to make mistakes, and I was fortunate enough to help the team again [Sunday]."
Krug, 22, had played three NHL games before Game 1. Facing a powerful Rangers attack led by Rick Nash, handling penalty-kill duties and skating in overtime did little to faze Krug in his Stanley Cup Playoffs debut Thursday. He even scored a third-period, game-tying goal in the Bruins' 3-2 win.
In Game 2, the opportunities to panic multiplied. With the Rangers more aware of Krug's abilities, they were sure to make adjustments. And on each of Krug's offensive plays that wound up on the score sheet, he had to turn what was nearly a miscue into a scoring opportunity.
Prior to his goal 5:28 into the game, Krug caught Nathan Horton's cross-ice pass and dragged the puck around the outside of his left skate before shooting it past Henrik Lundqvist for a 1-0 lead.
Krug then assisted on Gregory Campbell's goal at 2:24 of the second period. This time Krug had to deflect Adam McQuaid's pass with his right skate to his stick for a shot toward the net that was blocked by Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi then turned into a 2-1 Boston lead by Campbell.
"All that comes with confidence and being calm," Krug said. "If you're freaking out out there because the puck's not exactly where it is, you're going to get yourself in trouble."
Talk about a player turning a coach's words into action. Bruins coach Claude Julien had some simple advice for Krug when the former Michigan State blueliner was called up from Providence of the American Hockey League earlier in the week.
"I said, 'Don't be afraid to make mistakes.' I don't want him playing on his heels," Julien said. "In other words, I told him, 'Don't be afraid to make mistakes and play your game.' So that was basically what I told him when he first got here.
"I said, 'You know, I know how good you are. I know what you can bring to this team, just go out there and do it.' I think it's important, but the last thing you want to do is get those guys to play on their heels or play afraid to make a mistake. Confidence goes a long way in this game. When coaches are able to give players confidence, it shows because it makes a big difference -- instead of a guy making a mistake and looking at the bench every time, seeing if the coach is mad at him or will take away some ice time.
"You've got to let him play, and those guys right now (including fellow rookie defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton), I give them full credit for taking that advice and showing that they're very capable of playing in the playoffs and on our hockey club."
So far the mistakes have been few and far between. Krug (5-foot-9, 180 pounds) has often been on the ice against the Rangers' line of Brian Boyle (6-7, 244), Derek Dorsett (6-0, 192) and Taylor Pyatt (6-4, 230). The smaller defenseman has held his own and hasn't been on the ice for a goal against in close to 30 minutes of total ice time over the two games.
If anything, Krug has made that Rangers line adjust to him by using the speed and skating ability that made him a coveted free agent last spring when his college career ended.
"Yeah, well I'm a player, 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."