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BOSTON -- Torey Krug is not an enigma.
This Boston Bruins rookie defenseman is the newest sports sensation in Boston, and there's been a lot of focus on Krug's accomplishments in this Eastern Conference semifinal series against the New York Rangers. In five games, the 22-year-old blueliner has scored four goals, and all of them have been significant.
That was the case again Saturday in Game 5 when his power-play goal at 3:48 of the second period tied the score at one before the Bruins finished with a 3-1 victory to advance to the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
|Torey Krug celebrates his fourth goal in five playoff games against the Rangers.|
Numerous times in the past week, people have asked: Where did this kid come from? If he's so good, why hasn't he played his entire season with the Bruins? And, how tall is he really?
Krug, generously listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, is a good player who began his pro development after the Bruins scouted him feverishly during his collegiate career at Michigan State, and then the organization ultimately signed him as a free agent on March 25, 2012.
When he made the decision to turn pro after three collegiate seasons at Michigan State, Krug asked the advice of family, friends, the Spartans' coaching staff and former players. At the time, he described his decision to leave school as "bittersweet" and added it was his "dream to play in the National Hockey League" and called the opportunity presented to him by the Bruins as "tremendous."
He made his NHL debut and played two games at the end of the 2011-2012 season. He began his first full rookie season with the organization's AHL affiliate, the Providence Bruins, and was recalled to Boston once during the lockout-shortened 2012-2013 season.
When veteran defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden suffered injuries, the Bruins first called up rookie Matt Bartkowski from the P-Bruins for the first-round matchup against the Toronto Maple Leafs before Krug was promoted for this series against the Rangers.
As much of an impact he's had, Krug hasn't allowed himself to forget how he's reached this point so early in his pro career since the day he signed a contract a little more than a year ago.
"It's been a crazy year," Krug said after Saturday's win. "When I signed, I chose Boston for this reason. I wanted to win a Stanley Cup. I knew that they expected to win the Stanley Cup year after year, and I knew that we were going to be in contention every year. I'm glad that I just got the opportunity to come in, step in and contribute and try to help the team win. It's been an unbelievable year, for sure."
For some reason, Bruins coach Claude Julien has been criticized for not giving young players an opportunity, or trusting those players with little experience in the pros. That notion couldn't be further from the truth. Sure, Krug's arrival came out of necessity due to injury, but the coach had other options, and he's stayed with Krug.
"You always hope that guys can come in and help your team out. There's no doubt he was magic for us in this series to score that many goals," Julien said. "The confidence that he showed playing in this series is pretty outstanding. He's a player we've always felt good about in our organization. He's shown what he's all about. He has ice in his veins, and that's what he's got."
In the hockey world, Krug's season is only beginning. The Bruins will face the top-seeded Penguins in the conference finals, and Pittsburgh is a much better team than the Rangers. There's no doubt he's a confident kid, and he's showcasing that both on and off the ice.
"It's pretty high," Krug said of his confidence. "It's a good feeling out there, and the more the coaching staff puts me out on the ice, the better I feel. It's a great feeling when your teammates are coming up to you and patting you on the back."
He could have come up and taken the old-school rookie mentality that young players should be seen and not heard, but he brought his confidence with him and has responded. In case he didn't already know it, Krug was told by Julien and the veteran Bruins players not to change a thing.
"You definitely have to balance that," he said. "Every game I've been able to take a step back before the national anthem, look around, close my eyes, think about everything for a second, understand how special this is. With that, I just go out there and play my game and just try to contribute to the team in any way possible. Every game I seem to find a way."
When 17,565 are chanting "Kruuuug" in this town, it means you've found more than just a way. His youthful spark has inspired many, including Bartkowski, who spent the majority of the season in Providence with Krug. As Krug's sniper-like one-timer beat reigning Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, most everyone in the Garden could only think, "Again? Are you kidding me?"
Bartkowski said with a laugh, "First thing I thought was, why didn't we have that play in Providence the whole year and how much better our power play would have been. I knew he had a pretty good shot, but you really had no idea he'd been ripping past Lundqvist in the NHL. Secondly, I was just happy for him. I'm glad he's doing well, and it's big for the team, too, so it's great.
"Any goal is huge, but that goal especially because we were kind of in a lull a little bit and then we get that big goal -- it just boosts us up and then we go from there."
Krug's hockey sense showed when he put himself -- like he's done so many times in this series -- in perfect position to accept a one-timer pass from a teammate. This time, it came from Tyler Seguin. The pass was pristine and Krug stepped into it and beat Lundqvist to the top right corner to tie the game at one.
"I just tried to get open in position to get my shot through," Krug explained. "When I take one-timers, I just try to make the goalie make a save with his hands, and, fortunately, it went in."
That one-timer is something he has worked to perfect. During the P-Bruins' season, Krug, along with assistant coach Kevin Dean, would spend one hour after every game-day skate on Friday mornings working on one-timers.
Even though he's a defenseman, his strength is on the offensive side of the puck. That's not to say he's a liability on defense, but he realizes he has to continue to do what he's done in these past five games in order to have success.
"I have to do things like that if I want to stick around in this league," he said. "If I'm not going to be scoring or making an impact in the offensive zone, I'm not going to stick around. They're just going to find a bigger guy who can do those things. Hopefully, I can continue. And like I said, I'm just trying to contribute every chance I get."
So far, he has.
Prior to the start of this series against New York, Rangers coach John Tortorella said he would only talk about his team when asked about the opposition. Now that the series is over, Tortorella had some kind words for the Bruins rookie defensemen.
"Especially the kid there, Krug," Tortorella said. "They got a lot of offense from their back end, and that was another difference in our series, getting offense from the back end, and he led the way. It's funny how it works as guys come into lineups."
It's a safe bet the Bruins' pro shop at the Garden is rushing to order No. 47 Krug sweaters, because his youthful spark has ignited a team and a city.