Bruins

Time for Krug to step up after a rough start

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Time for Krug to step up after a rough start

BRIGHTON, Mass – It’s not much of a coincidence that Torey Krug and the Bruins are off to bumpy starts.

With so many injured players and inexperienced rookies in tow for the Black and Gold, the onus - whether fair or unfair - falls to core players such as Krug to pull more than their share of the load. 

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Unfortunately, Krug hasn’t been up to the challenge the first six games of the season, while coming quickly from a fractured jaw suffered in the preseason, and he sits with a team-worst minus-8 for the season after a brutal minus-3 performance in the Saturday night collapse against the Buffalo Sabres.

Krug’s timing still doesn’t appear to be fully there yet after missing most of training camp. That's causing him to play more in the defensive zone where the 5-foot-9, 186-pounder just doesn’t want to be.

The Bruins absolutely need him to be better if they’re going to survive the early portion of the season with their playoff hopes still intact, so it’s up to Krug to find his game a little sooner than he did last season. 
 
Krug, 26, returned a few games ahead of the initial injury timetable, which he’s always done to his tough-minded credit. Still, it feels like this season is playing out much the same as last when Krug was coming back from shoulder surgery and started very slowly before getting his bearings physically with just six points and a minus-9 rating in his first 20 games of last season.

Krug is hoping that a few more days of practice this week can help him hit the reset button ahead of this weekend’s games against the Sharks and Kings and get him into midseason form.

“Maybe [a few days to reset is a good thing], but there’s also a side of me that says ‘screw it’ and wants to get right back out there,” said Krug, who has just a couple of points and only eight shots on goal in his first six games. “The more I get out there and play the more I’ll find my game, and start playing the percentages that make me a good hockey player. The more I touch the ice the better I feel, and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing in the next game.

“I know it’s going to click. Last year was a physical thing with the shoulder, and I guess it’s the same situation this year where I think I only practiced four times and then missed all of camp [with the fractured jaw]. So, I’m in the same situation as last year, and it took me about 20 games to feel right last season. I’m trying to right the ship a little sooner this time around. The next game is when it’s going to start, and then we’ll move from there.”

Coach Bruce Cassidy wondered whether the protective plastic mouth-guard that Krug is wearing on his helmet after the broken jaw was hindering his play a little bit. It’s clear he’s still in recovery mode while still unable to eat things like a nice steak dinner because of the healing jaw. Krug may or may not be able to ditch the plastic jaw-guard after his next doctor’s appointment next week, but there are also some things he can do to aid his efforts in bouncing back.

“He had a significant injury, so I don’t know if some of the puck battles and 1-on-1 battles in tight that it affects him or not. Only he can answer that, but I suspect it would [impact] a lot of people. On the offensive end some of the plays that he’s made haven’t ended up in goals, and other ones haven’t presented themselves as much. That might be a byproduct of who he’s out there with,” said Cassidy. “But I know he’s going to make his plays and get his points. It’s just inevitable. He does that every year. On the defensive part of it there have been a few plays where rather than tying his guy up, he’s trying to play goalie a little bit. 

He’ll just have to be cognizant of that. Do your job and tie up your guy, and don’t try to do too much. That’s usually when you get yourself in trouble, and that’s happened a little bit. So once we all buy into that in front of the net, we’ll all be better off.”

But Cassidy and Krug know that he’s a key player in the aggressive transition system that the Bruins want to play and that the diminutive D-man is important as an in-his-prime bridge player between older warhorse Zdeno Chara and young, inexperienced D-men Brandon Carlo and Charlie McAvoy.

At his best, Krug was a de facto No. 2 defenseman for the Bruins last season and certainly was a legitimate top-four guy playing well more 20 minutes a night. The Bruins need every inch of that right now with a team that’s certainly facing its share of adversity.

Krug knows his team badly needs him to step it up after an understandably slow start, so now's the time to start stepping.  
    


 

Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

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Morning Skate: No place for Gudas’ slash on Perreault

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while enjoying the new Brown Sugar Cinnamon coffee flavor at Dunkin’ Donuts. It’s not Cookie Dough, but what is after all?

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer James O’Brien has the details on Radko Gudas getting ejected for an ugly, reckless and dangerous slash to Mathieu Perreault’s head last night. Gudas should be facing a long suspension for a play that has no place in the NHL. It’s time for Flyers fans to stop making excuses for a player who’s no better than a cheap-shot artist and hatchet man. He has to face the music for consistently trying to hurt his fellow players.  

*Frank Seravalli has some of the details for a historic GM meeting in Montreal where NHL hockey was born in the first place.

*You always need to link to a service dog being part of the pregame face-off ceremonies. That’s like a rule here at the morning skate?

*Cam Atkinson and the Columbus Blue Jackets have agreed to a seven-year contract extension, according to reports from the Athletic.

*It’s been quite an eventful year for Arizona Coyotes coach Rick Tocchet and some of it has been to the extreme both good and bad just a month into his first year as bench boss.

*For something completely different: Chris Mannix is all-in on the Celtics being the front-runners in the Eastern Conference after their big win over the Golden State Warriors.

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

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Haggerty: For now, Bruins need to ride Khudobin’s hot hand over Rask

These are desperate times for the Bruins even after pulling out a solid, blue-collar 2-1 win over a sputtering Los Angeles Kings team on Thursday night.

The victory ended a four-game losing streak and gave the Bruins just their second road win of the season in eight tries. It was also the fourth win of the season for backup netminder Anton Khudobin, who is a sterling 4-0-2 and has given them everything they could possibly hope for out of the backup spot. The Bruins have a grand total of 18 points on the season and Khudobin miraculously has more than half of those (10 to be exact).

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It’s clearly a far cry from last season for Khudobin, of course, when it took until February for the goalie’s season to get in gear.

But Thursday night’s 27-save effort from Khudobin was also a stunning contrast to what Tuukka Rask has been able to produce this season. Khudobin has a .928 save percentage and 2.35 goals-against average. Rask has a dreadful .897 save percentage while giving them average play between the pipes at best.  

Khudobin is tied for seventh in the NHL with reigning Vezina Trophy winner Sergei Bobrovsky in save percentage and Rask is chilling in the NHL goalie statistical basement with retreads Steve Mason and James Reimer.

Quite simply, Khudobin has been way better than Rask and the Bruins have, for whatever reason, played better hockey in front of their backup goalie. Some of it might also be about Khudobin’s more adaptable game behind a Boston defense that can make things unpredictable for their goaltender, but Rask is being paid $7 million a season to be better and figure it out. It would be amazing if this trend continued for the entire season and it would certainly merit more examination from management as to why the rest of the Bruins and Rask can’t seem to combine for an effective, winning product on the ice.

For now, the Bruins need to simply win by whatever means necessary and that amounts to riding Khudobin’s hot streak for as long as it lasts. It should begin with the backup goalie getting a second consecutive start against the San Jose Sharks on Saturday night and seeing where it goes from there. Perhaps the extra rest gets Rask additional time to get his game together, or serves as the kind of motivation to get the Finnish netminder into a mode where he can steal games for an undermanned, out-gunned team that needs that right now.

“We’re going to look at it,” said Bruce Cassidy, when asked postgame by reporters in L.A. about his goalie for Saturday night. “He played very well against San Jose last time. They’re a heavy team. He seems to do well in these kinds of games with a lot of traffic around the net. But we’ll look at that decision [Friday].”

Khudobin has stopped 57 of 61 shots in his two games in November, so perhaps that level of hot goaltending could also allow the Bruins to survive a month that otherwise might absolutely bury their playoff hopes. Maybe Khudobin finally loses on Saturday night and the goaltending conversation, not controversy, ends as quickly as his point streak. For now, riding the hot goalie is the right call for a team that needs something good to hang onto.

The Bruins are in desperation mode until they get a number of their injured players back. There certainly might not be more of a desperate option than setting their beleaguered sights on a goalie they sent to the minors as recently as last season. But it’s a new season, Khudobin has been excellent and he’s earned a chance to carry this team for a little bit until they can get things back in order.

Calling Khudobin’s number is the right call right now for the Bruins and, quite frankly, shouldn’t be that difficult a choice given what we’ve seen so far this season. 

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