The Boston Bruins are fortunate to have a strong group of veteran leaders, and Torey Krug is definitely an important part of that.
Krug wasted absolutely no time responding to Tampa Bay Lightning forward Blake Coleman delivering a huge open-ice hit on Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo in the first period of Wednesday's NHL round robin game. He stood up for his teammate and dropped his gloves for a quick bout with Coleman. It was Krug's first fight since January.
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Krug taking it upon himself to change the momentum in the game didn't surprise Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy one bit.
"Well he’ll do it. He’s not afraid to drop the mitts with anybody," Cassidy told reporters after Boston's 3-2 loss to Tampa Bay. "And you saw (Matt Grzelcyk) went right after again. Two of our smaller defensemen, it just came natural to them. That’s what I love about our team. These guys have each other’s backs. They’re going to stick up for one another. And I’m sure Tampa was thinking the same thing.
"So, at the end of the day, that’s our group. They’ve always been that way. Any new player that comes in usually learns that. Torey obviously learned it from the (Zdeno Charas) and the (Dennis) Seidenbergs when he came here or the (Johnny) Boychucks, and he’s going to pass it on to the (Grzelcyks) and the (Jeremy) Lauzons type of thing. So, it’s great to see. Torey is a leader on our team. We have some obviously more grizzled veteran leaders, but he’s very good with the middle of the road group. And we appreciate when he does bring that to the table."
These kinds of high-stakes games often bring out a tremendous reaction from the crowd, but in the unique bubble setting in Toronto without fans in attendance, players have to shoulder more responsibility in manufacturing energy. Krug's fight certainly accomplished that for the Bruins, who started to play better and eventually tied the score in the third period.
"That was great for us. That was great to create that energy for us on the bench," Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy said. "Torey is a guy who takes on a leadership role without having a letter. We know that he’s someone who always comes and competes.
"At that point in the game, being down two goals, for him to step up there. It was a hit he didn’t appreciate and to step up there and fight and really bring passion and emotion into the game, that was awesome for us to see, especially in a setting here where you need to create your own energy. I think he saw that as an opportunity, and that was awesome out of him and something that got our bench going and we always appreciate when we stand up for each other."
Leadership is not the only attribute Krug brings to the ice. He's one of the league's best offensive defensemen, one who's averaged 53 points over the last four seasons. The 29-year-old D-man also found his way onto the scoresheet against the Lightning with an assist on McAvoy's second-period goal.
Krug is eligible for unrestricted free agency in the offseason, and as one of the top players able to hit the market, he could cash in with a huge contract. Given his impressive offensive talent and leadership on and off the ice, it would behoove the Bruins to make a strong effort at re-signing the veteran defenseman.