Boston Bruins: Matt Grzelcyk steps up in Torey Krug’s absence

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 16: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden on November 16, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 16: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden on November 16, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit
matt grzelcyk bruins
BOSTON, MA – NOVEMBER 16: Matt Grzelcyk #48 of the Boston Bruins skates against the Washington Capitals at the TD Garden on November 16, 2019 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Torey Krug joined the injury list for the Boston Bruins last week. The Bruins called up Urho Vaakanainen to fill the open spot on the left side of the defense, but it is Matt Grzelcyk who stepped up to fill Krug’s role.

So far, Grzelcyk looks comfortable in his new spot, and that is good news for the Bruins.

Grzelcyk had a decent start to the season, but he didn’t look like the same top-four defenseman we saw last year. He averaged a little over 17 minutes on ice in his first 12 games, and he only had two assists. It’s safe to say the Bruins expected and needed a little more from Grzelcyk.

To spark both Grzelcyk and teammate Charlie McAvoy, coach Bruce Cassidy paired the two former-Terriers together. This was a positive move, as it put both players in positions of strength.

Right on cue, Grzelcyk elevated his game. He looked better with McAvoy on the right as opposed to Connor Clifton. Alongside McAvoy, Grzelcyk played at a faster pace, and he also saw more ice time. His defensive game improved, and he looked like the same guy from last year.

This transition turned out to be right on cue, as Cassidy called on Grzelcyk to fill Krug’s role the past week.

Last Sunday against Florida, which was the first game Krug missed, Grzelcyk played over 23 minutes. This was a season-high.

Grzelcyk followed that up with almost 20 minutes on ice against Toronto, and then 22:52 in ice time versus Washington. Now, 20 games into the season, Grzelcyk’s average ice time is 18:32.

In the last three games, Grzelcyk only has one assist, but he does have three hits and three blocks. More importantly, he’s a +2, a sign that he’s not a liability out there in extended minutes.

One area where Grzelcyk really stood out was the power play. Krug runs Boston’s first power play unit, and he’s one of the best in the league in that position. Krug had 11 power play assists in 17 games this year.

Cassidy put Grzelcyk in Krug’s spot on that first power play unit, and Grzelcyk looked solid. Although the Bruins are only one for seven on the power play in the past three games, the top unit as a whole didn’t look out of sync.

Grzelcyk won’t product like Krug, and nobody really expects that. As long as he keeps possession in the offensive zone to set up his teammates, the Bruins will be good.

Related Story. B's need Grzelcyk now and next year. light

We still don’t know how long the Bruins will be without Krug. Hopefully it isn’t too long, as Krug remains an integral part to the defense and the power play.

That said, Krug’s absence is a big opportunity for Grzelcyk to show that he deserves more ice time and a bigger role with the team. Through these past three games, Grzelcyk has done just that.