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.  
    


 

Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

Talking points: Jake DeBrusk graduates from rookie to clutch performer

GOLD STAR: The Bruins needed somebody to step up aside from their top trio of forwards, and Jake DeBrusk did exactly that in a huge Game 7 moment for the Black and Gold. DeBrusk scored two goals in the do-or-die playoff game including a power play goal to open up the scoring, and the game-winning goal in the third period where he powered to the net through Jake Gardiner before sliding a shot through Frederik Andersen. DeBrusk finished with five goals and seven points in the seven game series, had five shots on net in Wednesday night’s decisive Game 7 and was the best player on the ice for either team in the series’ most important game. DeBrusk may still be a rookie in name, but he’s graduated to formidable big game player in these playoffs. 

BLACK EYE: Jake Gardiner finished with a minus-5 for the game, and was brutally bad for the Maple Leafs. This was always the glaring weakness for the Leafs on their back end and it finally showed in Game 7 with so many other moving parts flying around. Gardiner didn’t block any shots and had a couple of giveaways in his 24:01 of ice time, and his play on the game-winning goal for DeBrusk was the perfect example of his rough night. DeBrusk got Gardiner all turned around as he attacked on the right wing with speed, and powered his way to the net while releasing a shot as the Leafs D-man couldn’t eliminate him from the play. At the moment of truth, it was a young Bruins forward overpowering a veteran Leafs D-man for the game-winner, and it’s exactly how the series played out in the moments where the Bruins had the upper hand. 

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TURNING POINT: Clearly it was coming out for the third period where the Bruins have been big winners all season. The Bruins scored just 1:10 into the third period to tie up the game on a Torey Krug bomb from the point, and they didn’t allow a single shot on net in the first 10 minutes of the third period while protecting a goalie with a fragile level of confidence in his own game. Clearly the Bruins decided to put the clamps down at the right time, and eventually Jake DeBrusk busted through for the game-winner while powering through the Leafs defense for his second score of the game. In all the Bruins outshot the Leafs 11-8 in the third period, but truly controlled the final 20 minutes of play while scoring four unanswered goals against a stunned Leafs team. For the second straight Game 7 between these two teams, the third period was a house of horrors for Toronto. 

HONORABLE MENTION: Patrice Bergeron is the kind of player that lives for the Game 7 moments, and he did exactly that once again for the Bruins. It was Bergeron that finished with a goal and three points, a plus-2 in 19:36 of ice time and won 14-of-22 face-offs while playing strong through injury. Bergeron scored his first goal of the series in the big Game 7 moment, and he finished with four shot attempts, one hit, two takeaways and a blocked shot in his night’s work while filling up the box score like he always does. Even better all three members of the Bruins top line scored in the game after being held down in each of the three losses in the series, showing they were ready to show up and play big at the biggest moment in a Game 7. 

BY THE NUMBERS: 9 – the number of points for Torey Krug at the end of the seven game series after scoring a big game-tying third period goal in Game 7. The nine points leads the field of all NHL defensemen after the first round of the playoffs.  

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Toronto did a good job with them. They got frustrated a few times, but they stuck with the program. Even the games they’ve been quiet in terms of stats on the sheet, they’ve been generating. So, that was asked this morning: Are they getting frustrated? I think there’s always a certain level of that when you’re used to getting production, and they got it back tonight.” –Bruce Cassidy, on his top line’s ability to stick with the program, and come through in Game 7, even as they were getting frustrated later in the series.

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NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Breaking down the Bruins' huge third period in Game 7

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NBC Sports Boston Breakfast Pod: Breaking down the Bruins' huge third period in Game 7

3:00 - Mike Felger and Tony Amonte break down the Bruins stepping up in the 3rd period as they get the big Game 7 win against the Leafs. Bruins advance to face the Lightning in the 2nd round. 

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12:34 - Gary Tanguay, Mike Felger, and Trenni Kusnierek discuss the impact Marcus Smart made in Game 5 and debate if Smart or Terry Rozier is more important to the Celtics.