Torey Krug is the Boston Bruins ‘most versatile defenseman. Once just an offensive specialist, Krug is now a steady blue-liner and a player the Bruins can’t afford to lose heading into the playoffs.
Torey Krug skated off the ice in the first period of the Boston Bruins’ shootout loss to the Ottawa Senators on Thursday with what is reported to be a lower-body injury. He was seen wearing crutches and a knee brace after the game.
“Lower-body. He’ll be out (Saturday), that much we know,” interim coach Bruce Cassidy told weei.com after the game. “And then from there, day-to-day.”
(Is anybody else tired of the vague upper-body/lower-body language the NHL allows its teams to use when disclosing injuries? It tells us very little.)
Krug Key to Bruins Offense
The Bruins can ill afford to have their top-scoring defenseman and point man on the power play out for even a single game of the playoffs. Krug is an indispensable part of what the Bs do on the ice. He is a gifted skater who transitions the team from defense to offense quickly. And he routinely gathers the puck in the Bruins’ end and carries it out to, and often through, the neutral zone and across the opponent’s blue line. But if the skating lane isn’t there, Krug will make the right outlet pass and hit a forward in stride allowing the offense to carry momentum into the attack zone.
“He’s a special talent. Power play, first pass on the breakout, neutral zone transition, all those things,” Cassidy said after practice on Friday.
Krug also is a threat to score or set up a teammate for a quality scoring chance. He scored eight goals and 43 assists in 81 games this season. His 51 points are the highest point total of his young career and tie him for fifth among NHL defensemen.
Development on Defense
Krug’s offensive game has never been in doubt. However, his defense is another matter. Being able to play solid, physical defense in his own end is something he has had to develop. His size (5 foot 9, 189 pounds) doesn’t make this easy, but Krug has been up for the challenge.
Krug recently explained to The Boston Globe’s Stan Grossfeld:
"“I think I’ve developed more this year than I have in years past. I’ve been playing against first-line players and second-line players all season and it’s really helped me develop and become an all-around player. I think (2016-17) is as consistent as I’ve ever played.”"
Under Cassidy’s system, Krug and his fellow defensemen are allowed to skate up and join the attack with more freedom than they were under former coach Claude Julien. Krug took advantage of the opportunities tallying three goals and 15 assists in the 26 games he played under Cassidy.
A Need Filled
For years the Bruins craved a puck-carrying defenseman. The lack of one was often seen as the reason for goal-scoring droughts. The team’s inability to get through the neutral zone with speed and maintain possession into the attack zone was the impetus to executing trade deadline deals in previous seasons.
In 2010-11 the Bruins acquired slick-skating defenseman Tomas Kaberle from Toronto with the hope he would help the transition game. He didn’t but the Bruins won the Stanley Cup anyway. During that off-season, they brought in Joe Corvo from Carolina. He made little impact at either end of the ice and returned to Carolina the next season.
Smooth-skating Dougie Hamilton was going to be the next great Bruins blue-liner. They traded him to Calgary in 2015. As recently as last year, they cut a deal with Carolina to bring yet another offensively skilled defenseman, Jean-Michael Liles, into the fold. Liles spends the majority of his time watching the Bruins play from the ninth floor of TD Garden rather than actually playing.
Torey Krug is the answer to the years-long quest to bring in a puck-moving defenseman. He is steady in his own end and one of the best in the game at creating offense at the other end. The Bruins’ offense will suffer without him in the lineup.