Torey Krug finally gets his chance on the big stage
|04.04.12 at 10:30 am ET|
Not all rookies get their chance to make their NHL debut playing for the defending Stanley Cup champs the week before they begin their title defense.
But with the Northeast Division salted away again and their No. 2 spot in the Eastern Conference sealed, the Bruins had the ideal chance to baptize 20-year-old defenseman Torey Krug into the world of big boys hockey Tuesday night against a team with names like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Welcome to the show, kid.
“I think stepping on the ice the start of the game,” Krug said of his biggest moment during Boston’s 5-3 loss to the Penguins, his first game in the NHL. “What the coaching staff did was have me warm up a few games with the team and that actually helped a lot. You wouldn’t think it, but it really does. You get your bearings on the ice, skating around with the other guys.
“I mean I’m most upset that we lost. The expectation here is to win and we have to fine-tune-up before the playoffs.”
Krug has played on big stages before, playing collegiately for Michigan State in the CCHA. He’s played against the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Ferris State. But clearly, Tuesday was a different animal.
“It’s a lot different,” he said. “It was a lot of fun to play in front of these fans. Michigan State, the crowd we had there was very intimate and into the game and I feel it was the same here. Everybody knows their stuff and they know hockey so the fans are unbelievable and it’s something I look forward to on a nightly basis.”
Krug, who turns 21 on April 12, was signed to an NHL entry contract on March 25. He skated with the Bruins last Tuesday in practice and dressed on Thursday but was a healthy scratch. After a week, he was ready to make his debut Tuesday against one of the most talented teams in hockey.
“I thought he handled himself well,” his coach Claude Julien said. “I like the way he moved the puck. I think everybody who knows the game realized that he’s a good puck-mover, his mobility was obvious, and the only thing I would tell you is that you could see him in the defensive zone really thinking about trying to play within our system, and sometimes he was maybe just a fraction of a second delayed – which is totally normal – but once he knew what he had to do, he went. So there was no hesitation once his mind was made up, and that will only get better as it becomes second nature, and that’s totally, as I said, totally natural for a guy playing in his first game. But the rest of it — as I said, when he had the puck, didn’t hesitate, thought he moved it well and made great passes.”
Krug figures to see playing time on Thursday in Ottawa and Saturday against the Sabres as the Bruins rest players and hope to avoid more injuries to key players like Johnny Boychuk suffered Tuesday.
“It’s not a bad thing because, you know, he gets the experience to play at this level, and to play at this level right now is pretty good,” Julien said. “And we get to see him not just fresh into training camp, but also having played a full season at school and coming in, in the best of shape he can be in right now. So we’re seeing him at his best, and we’re seeing some of the hockey at its best, so it’s a great way to evaluate a player right now.”
Krug wasted little time breaking the ice, taking a slap shot in the opening period, one of two shots on goal on the night.
“That would have been awesome,” Krug said. “But no, I was just trying to stay focused and think about what was going to happen next.”
He had 21 shifts in just over 18 minutes of ice time and was even on the plus-minus chart for his first NHL game.
One thing he wasn’t Tuesday was tentative. And it showed to his coaches.
“I think any time you’re tentative, I think it hurts your game,” Krug said. “I tried to do my best to keep things going and make plays I’d normally make.”
Aside from his play on the ice, the biggest takeaway for Krug on Tuesday might have been the fact he was able to make his debut in front of friends and family in Boston. It wasn’t easy getting them all in town after he found out he’d be making his debut after Monday’s skate.
“It was crazy, I didn’t get too much sleep,” he said. “I actually slept better [Tuesday] before the game when I took my nap. It was just hectic trying to get my family in to watch.
“Everyone – my three brothers, my two parents and they played a big role in getting me here to this level so I had to get them out here. They found out after I found out. My parents were actually in New York and when I found out they were on the plane back from New York from this weekend to Detroit, so I couldn’t get a hold of them so they were the last ones to find out.”
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