- Joe McDonald, Reporter, ESPNBoston.com
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WILMINGTON, Mass. -- The Boston Bruins have not finished higher than 15th in the NHL on the power play the previous four seasons. No matter how hard Bruins coach Claude Julien tried to fix it, the team’s PP struggled to capitalize on the man-advantage.
It has ranked 26th, 15th, 20th and 23rd the last four seasons, and even though the Bruins won the Stanley Cup in 2011, they accomplished it with a dismal power-play unit.
This season, the early signs are positive. Boston is 2-for-7 in the first two games of the season, but it’s clear the new additions and changes Julien has made should make a huge difference moving forward.
“The whole dynamic of our power play, even though people see some of the same faces, it’s much different,” Julien said.
Defenseman Zdeno Chara’s role on the power play has changed, with his 6-foot-9, 255-pound frame camped out in front of the opposition’s net. Newcomer Jarome Iginla has the ability to unleash his one-timer, which Julien admitted is an aspect of the power play that’s been missing the last few years. Former Bruins winger Tyler Seguin attempted to be that type of shooter, but he had trouble hitting the net from point-blank range.
“We take pride in our 5-on-5 game, but when the power play is clicking and putting some goals in the net, it always helps the team,” Krejci said. “We’re going to try to do that this year, and if we can be successful on the power play we’re going to be an even better team.”
The second unit is a combination of Patrice Bergeron, Loui Eriksson, Brad Marchand, Gregory Campbell, Dougie Hamilton, Johnny Boychuk and Dennis Seidenberg. It’s been a while, but Julien finally has options on the PP.
“Now we feel like we’ve got two power plays that can really do a good job,” Julien said. “A few new faces here and there can change your whole dynamic of your power play, and give you not just one, but two good ones.”
Not only has Krug made an impact in every aspect for the Bruins, but it’s evident his presence on the power play has made a major difference. He can skate the puck. He can pass it. He can shoot it. More importantly, he does it all under control. The 22-year-old already has one power-play goal this season.
"I like everything about him,” Krejci said. “He’s a great player, not only on the power play, but 5-on-5 he’s doing a great job. He’s great on breakouts. He’s just so shifty and quick. I love everything about him.
“He looks like he’s been in the league a long time," Krejci added. "Every decision is the right decision. He shoots the puck when he has to, he passes the puck when he has to and it’s just fun to play with him.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” admitted Krug. “We have a lot of different skill sets on the power play. Whether it’s Krej with vision and his skill, Iggy’s one-timer, Looch’s ability to shoot the puck and to battle down low, and obviously Z can do all of that. There’s a lot of different players on the power play but we’re having a lot of fun with it, moving the puck around and always trying to get better.”
Krug went undrafted as a collegiate player at Michigan State University and arrived in Boston after the Bruins signed him as a free agent on March 25, 2012. He played two regular-season games for the Bruins that spring before returning to school to finishes classes.
During that brief stint in the NHL, he registered one assist and it was obvious he had the ability to play at this level. He spent his first full pro season in Providence of the AHL and was recalled once to Boston during the regular season.
His services were needed during the Stanley Cup playoffs when three of Boston’s veteran defensemen were injured. Krug took advantage of the opportunity and scored four goals in five games against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. He remained in the lineup and helped the Bruins reach the Stanley Cup finals.
“The first couple of games he played before he went back to school, he played well and you could see he had good vision,” Julien said. “He moved the puck well and didn’t seem intimidated by that jump coming out of school to the NHL. You could see he had the poise and the confidence to be a good player.
“Last year was important for us to give him a year in the minors for him to fine-tune his game and learn to play the pro game. He is a smaller player, so those kinds of guys have to adjust to playing against guys bigger and stronger, and that was an opportunity for him to do last year.”
At the start of this season, Krug’s name was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie. Nashville’s Seth Jones, Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon, Dallas’ Valeri Nichushkin and San Jose’s Tomas Hertl are also possibilities.
Krug has already reached the Stanley Cup finals and came agonizingly close to hoisting it. Winning the rookie of the year would be a nice honor, but he’s focused on the ultimate team goal.
“I still have a spot here that I’ve got to secure. Every day I come to the rink trying to prove myself and prove to the coaching staff, management and even my teammates that I’m a guy who wants to be on the ice every game and I want to be a big part of the team. I don’t really think about [awards] at all. I’m just focused on my job,” Krug said.
9dJoe McDonald and Kyle Brasseur
45dKyle Brasseur, Special to ESPNBoston.com