EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 2, 2014

With Krug, Bruins alive, well

On Pro Hockey
Bill Burt

---- — BOSTON -- Lost somewhere between the big, menacing bodies, the grit, the precision, the world class goaltending and, at times, finesse, might be the biggest influence on your Boston Bruins.

Torey Krug.

The most amazing stat on last night’s pre-series stat sheet of the two combatants here at the T.D. Garden is Krug’s career playoff goal total: Five.

Five? If you said, “Ten,” I might have agreed, recalling his lead role in several big scores last spring when we knew little to nothing about Krug.

In fact that number is now six after his third period slap shot -- aren’t they all his goals? -- to tie the game at 2-2 in the third period. It was a Krug classic. Get the puck at the point, this time from Milan Lucic, and take it in another 25 feet before letting loose.

“We didn’t know much about him,” said New York Rangers goalie Henrik Lundvist after the Bruins eliminated them in five games last May. “But we do now. He’s good. He’s real good.”

The Bruins won one Stanley Cup with a pitiful power play three years ago and almost pulled the remarkable feat off again last May and June, eventually succumbing in six games to the Chicago Blackhawks.

The irony is Bruins management new of their shortcomings on the power play and paid dearly in the 2011 trying to fix it for a Stanley Cup run, trading a first and second round pick for Tomas Kaberle, who turned out to be a big dud, particularly on the power play.

But last spring a gift, which cost the Bruins only a $900,000 salary, arrived from Michigan State. It was almost like Tom Brady’s early days with the Patriots after replacing Drew Bledsoe and he would step up in the pocket to gain an extra three seconds. I remember saying, “That’s unusual. How did he do that?”

Well, Krug would take the puck up ice last year, weaving in and out of opposing defenses, and then, at other times, taking extremely accurate slap shots from the point that for some reason confused some of the best goaltenders in the world, like Lundvist.

At some point, Krug’s talents were appreciated by Bruins defense-first-and-foremost coaches, and he started gaining minutes on the power play, which had been ranked 20th, 15th and 26th the previous three regular seasons and 14th, 15th and 9th the last three post-seasons.

With Krug manning one of the points, the Bruins finished third best in the NHL this regular season at 21.7 percent. And you know what they are right, now even while trailing the Montreal Canadiens, 1-0, in this best of seven series? They are No. 1, 6-for-17, good for 37.5 percent.

It’s not all Krug, but as Bruins legend Ray Bourque recently noted, the five-foot-nothing defenseman has allowed Claude Julien to make some changes, like putting 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara in front of the goalie at times.

“Torey has the ability to make things happen,” said Julien, recently.

The Bruins lost a tough one last night, 4-3, in double overtime, losing while trying to kill a penalty, which happens to be a franchise specialty the last half-dozen years. But it’s early enough in the series to make amends, particularly on Saturday. Because of the power play, which has never looked better since Joe Thornton was involved a decade or so ago. Because of Krug.

You can email Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.