While Krug made his postseason debut for the Bruins against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, McQuaid has been an integral part of Boston’s blue line since 2010. The 26-year-old defenseman is big, strong and consistent with his play, so much so you almost don’t realize he’s out there.
His style of play also invites the possibility of injuries, which is part of the landscape of the NHL. McQuaid suffered an upper-body injury late last season and missed the playoffs. Even though he missed a total of 16 games during the lockout-shortened 2013 season, he was healthy and ready to this postseason.
“It’s been fun,” McQuaid said. “It’s been nice to be back in the feel of the playoffs. It was definitely tough to watch last year. We say you play all season long to give yourselves a chance to play in the playoffs, and you see once you get to the playoffs anything can happen. To play all season and then not to be able to play in the playoffs last year was tough, so I was excited about the opportunity this year.”
When a team has a defensive core that includes the likes of Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference, it can be easy to sometimes overlook the contributions of McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk, Dougie Hamilton, Krug and Bartkowski.
“[McQuaid] was a pretty important part of our team when we won a few years ago and probably flew under the radar because of how well other players played,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “But when he stays away from injuries and he gets his momentum going in his game, he’s a really reliable defenseman, and you’ve see him at times play against top lines because he’s capable of doing that. Certainly in the position that he’s in right now in that third pairing, he gives us a pretty good player there.”
In the first two games of this series against the Pittsburgh, the Bruins’ defense has done a solid job of limiting the Penguins offensive chances. Boston hasn’t surrendered much time and space, and when they have, goaltender Tuukka Rask has been there to make the timely saves.
“They have a lot of talent, a lot of fire power, guys who are very capable of making plays and finding the back of the net,” McQuaid said. “We have to expect their best. They’re a very talented team and we’re going to have to make sure we’re at our best.”
McQuaid’s rookie partner hasn’t been playing like it’s his first Stanley Cup playoff.
Krug has been sensational since being recalled from the Providence Bruins in time for Game 1 of the Rangers series. The 22-year-old blueliner was promoted out of necessity since Seidenberg, Wade Redden and Ference were all out of the lineup with injuries.
Krug hasn’t disappointed and he’s registered four goals and two assists for six points, including a plus-4 rating in seven games. Because of his ability in all aspects of the game, Julien is not afraid to go with a rookie in the playoffs.
“I think it’s pretty obvious when you look at him, even in this Pittsburgh series, the plays he makes. He’s got a good sense for the game, he sees the openings,” Julien said. “He’s calm with the puck, he doesn’t throw it away for nothing. Does he make mistakes? Just like everybody else, once in a while. But as far as do we know what we’re going to get, I think we have an idea, but until he shows it, you never know. That’s why we told him right off the bat to go out there and just play his game and not to play on his heels, and we were going to correct whatever needed to be corrected. You have to have confidence in the guys you put in your lineup, and they need to feel that confidence. We were able to do that and he was able to give us what we wanted.”
Defensively he’s hasn’t been a liability and his play has caught the eye of former Bruin defenseman and Hall of Famer Ray Bourque. No. 77 has texted Krug a few times after games.
Krug was a teammate of Chris Bourque, Ray’s son, in Providence.
“I’m really close with his son, Chris, and they’re a good family,” Krug said. “Ray, being who he is, is a guy I look up to and he’s been sending me very encouraging text messages. It’s a great feeling. He’s a guy I watched growing up and you idolize and hope one day you can impact the game like he did.”
The Penguins are a much more skilled offensive team than the Rangers, but it hasn’t effected Krug’s game.
“Pittsburgh is definitely different than the Rangers,” Krug said. “I think it all comes back to being the same player I was against New York. I’m trying to be efficient, playing with the puck more than the other team, taking control of that puck and taking care of it. It’s all about efficiency and not putting yourself in bad situations.”