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Torey Krug taking unlikely shot at Stanley Cup in stride 06.12.13 at 2:02 pm ET
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Torey Krug has gone from the AHL playoffs to four wins away from the Stanley Cup. (AP)

CHICAGO — Usually, the Stanley Cup marks the end of a long journey from a group of guys who have spent the whole season with that gigantic trophy in mind. Even if a player was acquired at the trade deadline, his attention shifted in the regular season from winning it with one team to winning it with another.

Torey Krug is in a different situation. After playing essentially the whole season in Providence, Krug’s mindset less than a month ago was winning the Calder Cup as the AHL’s top team. Yet here he is, a contributor on a team that is four games away from the Cup, and the 22-year-old blueliner admits that he never even thought about the Cup this season. After all, why would he?

“I worked all season toward the regular season championship down there,” Krug said after Wednesday’s morning skate. “I obviously want to put myself in a position to compete in the National Hockey League, and now that I’m here, you’re always working towards [the Stanley Cup]. Every team has that in sight. I’m just trying to contribute every game here.”

Krug obviously has contributed. Stepping in due to injuries on the blue line for the second round against the Rangers, Krug became the first defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five playoff games. His performance earned him a concrete spot in Boston’s lineup, as he took Wade Redden‘s spot once the veteran defenseman was healthy and contributed a pair of assists and a plus-2 rating in the Bruins’ sweep of the Penguins.

Now that he has the chance to win the Cup on a team for which he played just one regular season game this year, Krug is grateful for where he is at this point in his career. Tyler Seguin said Tuesday that he didn’t fully appreciate what it meant to be in the Cup finals two years ago as a rookie, but Krug isn’t letting the fact that he’s young confuse him about just how special an opportunity he has.

“I haven’t gone through something like this before, so those feelings will arrive when they come, but as far as understanding that it is rare — there’s guys that obviously haven’t made it to a Cup final through their whole careers — obviously [Jaromir Jagr] has waited a long time to get to the position where he is right now,” Krug said. “I understand how rare it is, but the emotions and the feelings will come afterward.”

Emotions aren’t a big part of the undersized defenseman’s game. The young Steve Zahn lookalike is Johnny Boychuk-like in that he’s outgoing but calm at the same time. Matt Bartkowski, who played with him in Providence, predicted every bit of this success when the B’s called Krug up because he knew the pressure of the Stanley Cup playoffs wouldn’t get to him. Krug himself says he can’t remember the last time he was nervous.

“I don’t really sit in the locker room or get sick to my stomach,” Krug said. “My heart’s not beating too fast. Maybe the first couple shifts I’m a little jittery here and there, but I never sit there. You hear of guys puking before games and stuff like that, but my nerves are pretty calm.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: Kaspars Daugavins the right call to replace Gregory Campbell 06.07.13 at 1:46 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

Andy Brickley, the color commentator for the Bruins on NESN, called into Mut & Merloni on Friday afternoon, and he wholeheartedly agreed with Claude Julien‘s apparent decision to play Kaspars Daugavins Friday night after Gregory Campbell broke his leg in Wednesday’s double-overtime win.

Daugavins skated as the third-line left winger during the Bruins morning skate and appears set to fill that role as the Bruins and Penguins face off at TD Garden Friday night.

“You have to look at it this way: What players are available in the absence of Gregory Campbell? And what are we losing in Gregory Campell?” Brickley said. “You’re losing an energy guy, a real good faceoff guy, a penalty-killer, reliable, accountable — all those things that you want in your role-playing centerman.”

Brickley said once Julien split up Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly to center the bottom two lines, Daugavins makes the most sense of the options, including Jay Pandolfo, Carl Soderberg and Jordan Caron.

“Which player has the most trust of the coaching staff, and which player gives your team the greater flexibility and versatility if you have to shorten the bench or you get into a special teams game?” Brickley asked. “Daugavins is probably your best bet.”

Brickley, like many, many others the last two days, lauded Campbell for sticking it out for the rest of his shift after breaking his leg while blocking a shot during Wednesday’s marathon Game 3. He said the effort exemplified “the [hockey] culture, how these guys grew up,” and Campbell finishing his shift was a high-risk, high-reward situation.

“I know there was some discussion whether he should’ve just lied down and writhed in pain in order to get the whistle — but I don’t think it would have come — so he did what he had to do,” Brickley said. “The impact that that can have if you survive that penalty-killing situation, but then get yourself to the bench, the message received by the players [about] how committed you are.”

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Andy Brickley on M&M: ‘Surprised’ to see Andrew Ference play over Matt Bartkowski in Game 1 06.03.13 at 1:58 pm ET
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Andy Brickley

NESN Bruins analyst Andy Brickley, in an interview with Mut & Merloni on Friday, talked about the Bruins’ win over the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals and previewed Monday night’s Game 2.

Brickley said that the end result of the game was what impressed him most about the Bruins on Saturday night, because they did not start the game very well. Pittsburgh outshot Boston 22-17 through the first two periods.

“The way they played the first 40 minutes was not Bruins hockey,” Brickley said. “They played real strong, they looked more like the team and their identity in the third period. I liked the way they played in the third, the neutral zone was a lot better, fewer turnovers. Once they had that 1-0 lead and were able to extend that lead they got real comfortable in that third period playing the style that they wanted to play. They are going to need a better start tonight because that could have easily been 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 after the first 40 minutes.”

One thing that surprised Brickley on Saturday night was that Andrew Ference returned to the lineup in place of Matt Bartkowski. Bartkowski, a Pittsburgh native, played more than 19 minutes in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Rangers before sitting Game 1 against the Penguins.

“Yeah, [I was] a little surprised to be honest with you,” Brickley said. “I know it was a very difficult decision. The minute you get clearance from team doctors and you’re ready to go, it is a tough decision. Bartkowski being a Pittsburgh kid, he was instrumental in advancing in that five-game series against the Rangers. He gave a different element to the Bruins back line with his speed, his ability to pinch down the wall, make key plays in the offensive zone, the quick ups. He was a good match for the Rangers because the Rangers don’t have a ton of team speed so he had more time and space.

“But Andrew Ference is a guy that shouldn’t lose his job to injury. He is a veteran guy, he plays real well in the postseason, he is a leader and he is a good match for the Pittsburgh Penguins when you talk about their high-end talent. I was a little surprised. I thought they would go with the same lineup that you saw in Game 5 against the Rangers, but it was a good decision because Ference played real well.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Preparing for Torey Krug an unusual challenge for Penguins 05.30.13 at 2:44 pm ET
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A major source of offense for the Bruins is a guy the Penguins don't know. (AP)

PITTSBURGH — Torey Krug: X-factor?

That could indeed be the case. Think about it: The Bruins’ biggest source of scoring the last round is a guy the Penguins have only seen once when he was right out of college last season. Furthermore, they don’t have extensive video to go off of because prior to the Rangers’ series, he’d only played three career NHL games.

Yet in that Rangers series, he became a difference-maker. Playing only because the Bruins had three injuries on their blue line, Krug became an offensive weapon with four goals in five games (becoming the first defenseman in NHL history to score four goals in his first five playoff contests), three of which came on the power play.

The Penguins aren’t used to Krug, and they aren’t used to the Bruins having a weapon like that on the power play. So what do they do?

“Don’t take penalties, I guess,” Penguins defenseman and penalty-killer Brooks Orpik said after Thursday’s practice.

The Penguins have one of the best offensive defensemen in the game in Kris Letang, but they haven’t seen anyone bring that type of skill set to Boston’s blue line in quite a while. That makes preparing for the B’s that much harder, because they’ve seen plenty of this Bruins team over the years and know what it is: Well-rounded, tough, defensively sound with strong goaltending. But at the same time, it’s a team that’s been generally wretched on the power play since Marc Savard went down. Now they have Krug, and they can’t use their experience to prepare for him.

“In preparation and looking at their team, I’ve looked back at things from not only this year, but last year — how they play, tendencies, face-offs — so you think you have a good feeling about the Boston Bruins and their team and how they play and players on the team, but that’s the one element you don’t have much of an idea of at all,” Dan Bylsma said. “We’ve watched him play, we’ve watched the tape, but he adds an element to the team that really hasn’t been an element for the Boston Bruins over the last couple of years, even going back to their Stanley Cup year.

“They’ve won a lot of hockey games and that hasn’t really been an element, so you can watch him, you can do video tape on him, but the element for him skating for his team in the neutral zone that he’s added the last series, him at the blue line, his mobility across the blue line, his shot, that’s something we haven’t quite seen. [He's] really kind of a variable we have to insert with our video and compare him to other players and what other players do for teams, but it’s going to be the first time we see him really on the ice when we get to Game 1.”

The Bruins’ power play finished 26th in the league with a 14.8 percent success rate in the regular season, though they were more successful against Pittsburgh with a 2-for-8 showing in their three meetings this season. None of those games featured Krug, as he only played in one regular season game this year, which was against the Canadiens.

Pittsburgh’s penalty kill has the third-best success rate this postseason (second among remaining teams, with Chicago leading the way), as the Penguins have kept their opponent from scoring on 89.7 percent of their opponents’ advantages. They hope to keep that up against the Bruins’ power play, no matter who’s out there.

“Obviously with [Zdeno] Chara and Krug and [Johnny] Boychuk, they’ve got some big shooters,” Orpik said. “You look at the talent level they have, they can go in spurts. They can be down for a while and they can be really hot for a while, so just like any other series, I think discipline is the biggest thing. If you give power plays enough opportunities, eventually they’re going to burn you.”

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Matt Bartkowski on M&M: ‘It’s not my call’ who suits up for Bruins 05.28.13 at 2:16 pm ET
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Mat Bartkowski

Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski checked in with Mut & Merloni on Tuesday afternoon to chat about the upcoming Eastern Conference finals against the Penguins.

Bartkowski and fellow call-up Torey Krug have played well since joining the team in the postseason following injuries to veteran blueliners. With Andrew Ference and Wade Redden back skating with the team, coach Claude Julien might soon have to make a roster decision.

“I don’t really think about it too much,” Bartkowski said. “I’m just trying to keep playing and assuming that I am going to play in the games. It’s not my call once it comes down it, who plays. All I can really do is put my best foot forward and see what happens.”

Bartkowski said the fact that he started the postseason playing in the AHL rather than sitting in Boston has played to his advantage.

“I think it was key that I went back down to play in Providence,” he said. “I think if I was just sitting up here and riding the bike, I don’t think I could have played the way I have. We were playing playoff hockey in Providence. It’s not the same level or speed or anything like that, but all in all, it’s still playoff hockey and you’ve got to bring the same intensity. That made a world of difference in being able to prepare for the role I’ve assumed up here.”

A Pittsburgh native who grew up a fan of the Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr-led Penguins of the 1990s, Bartkowski knows the Bruins will have their hands full with this edition of the Pens.

“Pittsburgh, you don’t want to call them an All-Star team, but they’ve got a lot of high-end talent,” he said. “I guess they’re more of a risk-reward team [than the Rangers]. I think it will be a pretty good matchup. We’re pretty defensively sound and we’re a strong team. It will be a fun series to play in.”

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Shawn Thornton on D&C: ‘Those defensemen are playing unbelievable’ 05.20.13 at 10:16 am ET
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Shawn Thornton

Bruins forward Shawn Thornton checked in with Dennis & Callahan on Monday morning to talk about the B’s-Rangers series.

The Bruins took a 2-0 series lead with Sunday’s 5-2 victory, as Henrik Lundqvist and the Rangers continued to play below par.

“I think they had their chances, to tell you the truth,” Thornton said. “I think the second period, it could have went either way. We were fortunate to get out of that with the lead. It could have been a different game if Tuukka [Rask] didn’t stand on his head for us in the second period.”

The big story of this series has been the play of the Bruins’ young defensemen, Torey Krug, Matt Bartkowski and Dougie Hamilton, who have sparked the Bruins with their fresh legs.

“Those defensemen are playing unbelievable,” Thornton said. “Torey Krug, obviously — not just the goal and the assist, those are great plays — but there were some plays he made that probably went unnoticed during the game that made our lives as forwards a heck of a lot easier. Some of the vision he has and some of the plays he made look easy, but they weren’t really easy plays, especially in the neutral zone.”

Thornton said he hasn’t thought much about what will happen when injured defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden are ready to return.

“I don’t know what the timeline is for those guys, but I’m sure Claude [Julien] will have some decisions to make once everyone’s healthy,” Thornton said. “Not easy decisions, I’m sure, but good decisions. It’s nice when you have that many options. It’s better than the opposite, when you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, we can’t find anyone to put in the lineup.’ ”

As for the possibility of hard feelings if a veteran sits in favor of a rookie, Thornton insisted it won’t be issue.

“Not in our locker room,” he said. “I’ve been that veteran guy squeezed out of the lineup for the playoffs. It’s all about winning this time of year. There’s no time for any personal feelings or agendas. It’s all about the team. We have a good bunch of guys in that room, and everyone’s aware of it.”

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Bruins’ little big man Torey Krug proving he belongs on big stage at 9:49 am ET
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Torey Krug is looking forward to bigger and better things in the playoffs. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Every year, a player comes out of no where to become a big factor in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

That man for the Bruins this year so far is 5-foot-9 Torey Krug.

He did it again on Sunday. He scored the game’s first goal in the first period, beating Henrik Lundqvist. He did it again on the second goal, pinching in from his perch on the left point and firing a shot on goal that led to a rebound that was put away by Gregory Campbell.

Krug has been instant offense at the blue line for the Bruins. For a 22-year-old rookie in his second NHL playoff game, Krug looks like a trusty veteran.

“Yeah, well I’ve said it time and time again, I come into this locker room, very comfortable, calm,” Krug said after Sunday’s 5-2 rout of the Rangers in Game 2. “I get to watch some of the best professionals in the world prepare for games like this, as if it’s any other game. So, I have a lot of guys to lean on and they all give me confidence back. So, it’s unbelievable.”

What is so very striking about Krug is his confidence with the puck. Much like Dougie Hamilton displayed early in the season, Krug looks like he wants the puck at every chance, either rushing up the ice or setting up on the power play. Why is that?

“Well I’m a player. I’m 5-9, I’m not very big, I have to play with the puck to be an impact player,” he answered. “So, for me, you’ve got to be confident with the puck. If I’m not making plays, I’m not going to be effective and guys are going to go out there and they’re just going to find a 6-2 guy that can do the same thing without the puck. So, you just got to be confident and play with the puck.

On his goal, he managed to use his skates to control the puck, setting up the shot on his stick.

“That’s a skill that sometimes you work on it after practice,” he said. “You don’t have to work on it too much. It’s just a couple of extra reps here or there at the end, picking up pucks with your feet. So, it’s just something that I try to do, and I was lucky enough that it bounced my way.”

And his set-up of Campbell’s goal?

“It’s the same thing,” he said. “All that comes with confidence and being calm. If you’re freaking out, out there because the pucks not exactly where it is, you’re going to get yourself in trouble.”
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