BRIGHTON, Mass – It might just be high time for people to cut B’s defenseman Torey Krug a little bit of a break.
The 26-year-old defenseman got off to a slow start this season offensively coming back from a fractured jaw, and lost his longtime defensive partner to injury when Adam McQuaid broke his leg in the middle of October.
Still, Krug has managed to post four goals and 14 points in 19 games while averaging 20:46 of ice time this season, and is on pace for career-highs of 16 goals and 57 points despite some very real power play struggles in the month of November. Offensively Krug has pushed the puck, adjusted to second-year D-man Brandon Carlo on his right side most nights and leads all Bruins defensemen with 42 shots on net in his 19 games.
Despite all of that, there's a vocal minority of Bruins fans that seem to always view Krug as a defensive mistake waiting to happen, or a weak D-zone link that can always be exploited. He’s battled through another minor injury since returning from the fractured jaw as well, but Krug rightfully feels like he’s on the proper track after starting slowly out of the gate for the second year in a row.
“Pittsburgh was good and more importantly we got the win. The Edmonton game was not bad. I feel good,” said Krug, who sizzled home the game-winner on a one-timer in Wednesday night’s win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. “Obviously there are things I can always improve on, but I think the coaches are happy with my play. I just want to continue taking steps forward and being a bigger part of the team.”
Clearly there are always going to be challenges defensively for a player that’s listed at 5-foot-9, 186-pounds, and the team-worst minus-9 rating for Krug gives his critics plenty of ammunition after he finished as a minus player last season. But there’s also this about Krug: The plus-minus numbers are misleading given that he’s been on ice for a whopping seven empty net goals scored against the Bruins this season.
Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy pointed that out while giving the rundown on where he thinks Krug’s game is at a quarter-way through the regular season.
“I think he’s been better. Offensively I think his game is rounding into form. We’re always going to push Torey to be that 200-foot player. We’re never going to ask him to clear out the front of the net like [Kevan] Miller or [Brandon] Carlo, but we’re going to ask him to be conscientious with that part of his game without losing the offensive part,” said Cassidy. “Those offensive defensemen are always looking to transition, and that’s always a part of their game. But let’s also clean up what’s in front of us first.
“I think he’s done a good job of that. I think he’s got a high plus/minus number right now, but don’t forget that I think he’s been on the ice for seven empty net goals. I think it’s a little bit inaccurate to judge him on that particular number.”
Clearly there have been some tough games for Krug this season, and pretty much all of them occurred when he was still suffering and eating a soft food diet with a busted jaw. He was a minus-3 in losses to both the Coyotes and the Sabres in October, and there were too many instances where the D-man got trapped in the defensive zone, or got way too loose with the puck breaking it up the ice. Krug improved that to an even plus/minus in the month of November, and was a point-per-game player with two goals and 11 points in 10 games while doing nearly all of his damage during 5-on-5 play.
From the fancy stats perspective, only Charlie McAvoy (54.24) has a higher Corsi/SAT% than Krug among Bruins defensemen with his 53.18 number through two months.
The bottom line is this with Krug: He’s coming off a very strong month of hockey, he’s on pace for career best offensive numbers and he’s been doing it with the Bruins lineup consistently missing some of their best finishing players over the last two months. In other words, Krug is enjoying a pretty damned good year and it might be time for more people to start appreciating it while getting past the antiquated plus/minus numbers.