Krug, special teams keep stepping up

BOSTON -- It's been nearly one calendar year since Bruins defenseman Torey Krug made his Stanley Cup playoff debut.

Last season, Krug's presence in the Bruins lineup gave the team a youthful boost against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, and for the remainder of the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs en route to the finals, in which Boston eventually lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.

After his first full season in the NHL, Krug was instrumental to Boston's success in the first-round matchup against the Detroit Red Wings, and his two assists in Game 5 helped the Bruins to a 4-2 win. He finished this series with one goal and four assists for five points. He now has five goals and six assists for 11 points in 20 career playoff games.

"I'm a lot more confident," he said after Saturday's win. "I feel more comfortable. It's playoff hockey. Everything happens so fast right now. I am kind of just taking it all in again. It's great experience."

Overall, the Bruins have received major contributions from their inexperienced defensive core this season, including Krug, Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Kevan Miller. Veteran captain Zdeno Chara has been impressed with his young teammates' development.

"[Krug] came in last year during the playoffs, so it's been, for him, a full kind of calendar year with us," Chara said. "So he's making really big strides and he's feeling more and more comfortable and confident. So is Dougie and, obviously, Millsy [Miller] and Barts [Bartkowski]. So they do their job and work hard."

The Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011 with a dreadful power play. This season, the power-play unit is the best it's been in recent seasons, and it came through in a big way during the first. Overall, the Bruins went 6-for-16 in this series against the Red Wings. In the decisive Game 5 win on Saturday, Boston scored two power-play goals. During the regular season, the Bruins ranked third in the league on the power play, scoring 50 goals on 230 power-play opportunities.

Boston's penalty kill has always been a strength, and that has continued this season. In this series, the Bruins went 18-for-20 on the PK. In Game 5, they were 6-for-7 on the kill.

"The penalty kill is huge for us," Krug said. "Anytime you have a goalie like Tuukka [Rask] in there, your penalty kill is going to be very strong. Those guys did a great job, and then your power play, it's going to have to win you hockey games at some point down the road. This series it was huge for us. It's very important that when we got those chances we came out flying and were able to capitalize."

• Prior to this series, the last time Bruins forward Loui Eriksson tasted the Stanley Cup playoffs was March 2008. He was a member of the Dallas Stars, and that team reached the Western Conference finals before losing to the Red Wings. In his first season in Boston, Eriksson was thrilled with the opportunity to return to the postseason, and he played like it. In Game 5 on Saturday, he scored a power-play goal. He finished the series with two points, and his goal was his first playoff goal since May 14, 2008, against the Red Wings. In this series, he was reliable at both ends of the ice, and the Bruins' third line of Eriksson, Carl Soderberg and Justin Florek proved crucial.

"It was definitely a nice feeling to score a goal and get the win, for sure," Eriksson said. "I thought they did a good job. They are a tough team to play against, but we managed it good and got the four wins. Now, we're going to play against Montreal, and it is going to be good."