Monday, June 17, 2013

At 5-9, Krug continues to prove size is immaterial

By Larry Wigge

Boston fans don't like to hear the story about how Wally Pip sat out a game in June of 1925 with a headache ... and the legend known as Lou Gehrig began for the New York Yankees.

Well, here goes another old-fashioned fairy tale also involving Boston and New York.

Little-known Torey Krug, a 5-9, 180-pound undrafted player who once played at Michigan State, won a starting job when three defensemen Wade Redden, Andrew Ference and Dennis Seidenberg joined Boston's hobbled defensive corps.

It started in the second playoff series for the Bruins -- May 16 against the Rangers.

Krug, who was making his Stanley Cup Playoff debut, scored off a sharp shot from the left circle that squeezed underneath goaltender Henrik Lundqvist's left arm to tie the game at 2-2 on a power play, sending the game into overtime for a Brad Marchand overtime winner.

"It was amazing," Krug said. "I've said before that my main goal was to come in here and try to help the team win, and I was fortunate enough to do that."

It happened again and again and again ...

The Boston Bruins rookie defenseman from Livonia, Michigan, who set an NHL record by scoring four goals in his first five Stanley Cup playoff games.

And ... Krug never left the lineup -- even after Ference and Seidenberg got healthy.

Numerous times in the past month, people have asked: Where did this kid come from? If he's so good, why hasn't he played his entire season with the Bruins? And, how tall is he really?

Krug, generously listed at 5-foot-9, 180 pounds, is a good player who began his pro development after the Bruins scouted him feverishly during his collegiate career at Michigan State, and then the organization ultimately signed him as a free agent on March 25, 2012. Playing for Providence of the American Hockey League, Krug put up great numbers -- 13 goals, 32 assists in 63 games.

"When I was at Michigan State my one-timer was great," Krug said. "It was one of my strengths ... and it was one of those things I let slip away from me."

The diminutive defenseman has made an amazing impact on the Bruins. Three of his goals came on the power play, results of his wicked slap shot. The other came on a dazzling display of skating and stickhandling, catching the puck on his blade between his legs and wrapping it around his left skate before beating Lundqvist with a snapshot.

It wasn't all peaches and cream for Torey Krug.   

Draft day came and went ... and there was nothing ... in 2011.

"He was really disappointed when he didn't get drafted," said Michigan State coach Tom Anastos said. "Clearly the reason was that on a good day, he's a 5-foot-9 defenseman, and how many of them play in the NHL?

"What people missed on Torey Krug was they were so busy measuring him in height, they forget to measure his heart."

"It's a childhood dream to hear your name called at the draft," Krug said. "I interviewed with a few teams. They seemed pretty excited and I was too. You're waiting for your name to get called and it doesn't happen ... and you're crushed, because all these guys you played against are getting picked.

"I'm sitting there, thinking: 'Why am I not getting called? I'm better than this guy, I'm better than that guy.'"

The son of Cheryl and Kyle Krug. Torey's brother, Adam, played college hockey at Adrian College and other brother Matt played at Robert Morris University, his brother Zak plays college volleyball at Siena Heights University in Adrian, Mich.

Torey admires the play of Pavel Datsyuk because "he's the most well-rounded player on the ice", and models his game after Zdeno Chára. He calls his father his largest hockey influence.

"You always hope that guys can come in and help your team out. There's no doubt he was magic for us in this series to score that many goals," Boston coach Claude Julien said after being placed in an unenviable state on defense with the injuries to Redden, Ference and Seidenberg. "The confidence that he showed playing in the Rangers playoff series is pretty outstanding. He's a player we've always felt good about in our organization. He's shown what he's all about. He has ice in his veins ... and that's what he's got."

It was while he was at Providence that he achieved additional work with his shot. Assistant coach Kevin Dean said it's no accident Krug is gunning for the net despite his short NHL resume.

"He understands he's got to produce offensively, or defensively they're going to find someone bigger," Dean said. "He's dialed in. He gets it."

Dean studied his mechanics and suggested he transfer his weight forward. The two took to the ice 15 minutes early each Friday and worked on various angles of the one-timer from different spots on the ice.

"He's a very cerebral kid," Dean said. "You tell him something once and he's going to try and use it. I'd say 80 percent of the kids aren't like that. You've got to tell them three or four times. They've got to see it first. Not Torey. He listens, then goes out and tries it."

Thus, the key to Krug's shooting and his importance on the power play to the Bruins.

But, there was one blip on the radar in Krug's play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals against Chicago. 

A bad pass -- throwing the puck up the middle allowing the Blackhawks to get back into the game on Dave Bolland's goal.

"Doesn't mean we lose confidence, because we still had the confidence to put him out there in in overtime," Julien said. "He's also the kind of guy that can produce that goal. It is what it is.

"It's easy to focus in on one thing. Yes, it was a mistake. If you look back at the play, I didn't think we had a great line change and he didn't have a ton of options. I think there could be some blame shared on that goal."

A couple of days later, Julien on Krug responding in Game 2.

"Extremely well," said Julien. "He didn't lose any confidence. I thought he was good at moving pucks.

"I thought he handled himself well after some of the heat he was taking from the outside for that mistake in Game 1. We talked about it. I wanted him to go out there and play with the same confidence he always has. He answered that." 

Undrafted. Small in size, but not in heart. Torey Krug is indeed a unique individual.

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