BOSTON – Torey Krug was one of the biggest Red Wings fans growing up in his Livonia, Mich., neighborhood. It was a childhood filled with memories of one winning season after another.
He vividly recalls running around outside his family’s home celebrating as a 5-year-old following Steve Yzerman’s Game 7 overtime winning goal against the St. Louis Blues in the 1996 Western Conference semifinals.
“My favorite on-ice memory would have to be Stevie Y’s overtime goal. That was a pretty special moment,” Krug said. “I just remember how it brought the city together, the community … you’re running outside, you’re honking your car horn and the whole neighborhood’s excited so it was really fun watching him play.”
As Krug got older and began playing hockey himself for youth teams at Belle Tire and Honeybaked, the Red Wings continued to build on a playoff stretch that has now stressed to 23 straight seasons.
“The goal that they scored in overtime against Carolina, Igor (Larionov) with that screen in front,” Krug said. “I was at a buddy’s house having a sleepover and we were trying to stay up as late as we could to watch it. My buddy fell asleep and when they scored. I was just really excited, woke him up.
“Just the best, I mean, Darren McCarty’s goal against Philly. I wasn’t at the game but my dad was. You can see him, you know how they take those panoramic views, you can see him up in the corner standing there. You can see his silhouette up against the wall with the shadow.”
Now in his second playoff run with the Boston Bruins, the 23-year-old defenseman hopes to make his own Stanley Cup memories against the team he once idolized.
Last spring, Krug, who played collegiately at Michigan State, became a bit of a playoff sensation, producing four goals – all on the power play – and six points in 15 games for the Bruins. Boston reached the Cup finals where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in a six-game series.
Krug admits that he was running on adrenaline throughout the 2013 playoffs but this time around he’s more prepared for the postseason.
“It’s crazy what a year makes,” he said. “I’m very excited that I know what to expect now and at the same time you have to bring the same passion and you know that confidence into the rink, that swagger and you gotta use it to your advantage.”
Krug led the Bruins’ defense during the regular season with 26 assists and 183 shots on goal. He finished tied with Zdeno Chara for the team lead in defensive point production with 40.
Though the Red Wings won the season series, 3-1, Krug said that statistic is irrelevant as the teams head into Game 1 of their Atlantic Division semifinal series at TD Garden Friday night.
“We gotta make sure defensively we control our gap and take away their time and space,” he said. “When their forwards have a lot of time with the puck then they’re making plays and we gotta make sure we take that away.”
ALL QUIET: Done. Finite. Kaput.
That’s how Boston forward Reilly Smith described the recent moratorium on talking to his older brother, Red Wings defenseman Brendan Smith.
“Lines of communication are kinda closed pretty good right now,” Reilly Smith said following the Bruins’ morning skate prior to Game 1 of the Atlantic Division semifinal series, which starts tonight at TD Garden.
“I think we’ll probably talk a little more after the series,” Reilly added. “We’ll see whatever happens but at this stage our main mindset is to just help your team try to get out of the series.”
However, 24-year-old Brendan Smith disputes his younger brother’s claim of a sibling talking truce.
“We’ve talked a little bit,” Brendan said, laughing. “We were actually going to try to get together last night but we had some team dinners so we opted out on that. We’re still talking. He’s always chirping back and forth so he’ll get a rise out of you guys more than he’ll get a rise out of me.”
When the puck does drop tonight, it will mark the first time in Red Wings’ playoffs history that brothers have been on opposite sides in a Stanley Cup playoff series. But this is the sixth playoff series featuring opposing brothers in Bruins’ history, which includes Tony and Phil Esposito, who met three times.
When they were younger, the brothers used to spend countless hours playing floor hockey against one another in the basement of the family’s home in suburban Toronto.
“You always imagined that you were playing in the Stanley Cup finals against each other so it’s weird that it’s kinda come to this now where we’re able to play against each other on this type of stage,” said Reilly, 23, “But it’s a dream come true for both of us and it’s just weird that we’re playing against each other.”
BEAR SCARE: The Bruins owned on the league’s most lethal power plays during the regular season. Averaging a 21.7 success percent, good for third-best behind Pittsburgh and Washington, the Bruins upped their production since the Olympic break, collecting 16 power-play goals on 63 attempts.
The Red Wing’ penalty killers are aware of their task about the Bruins, especially their big net-front people, who are capable of blocking out the sun.
“They’ve done well in the regular season and that’s a part of our game we want to do real well on our penalty kill,” Wings forward Drew Miller said. “They got a lot of guys who are dangerous. You go up and down their lineup, (Patrice) Bergeron, (David) Krejci. (Zdeno) Chara in front of the net. The biggest thing is us sticking to our system and getting it done as a team.”