May 16, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug (47) helps to clear the puck away from Boston Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask (40) during the third period in game one of the second round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the New York Rangers at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Torey Krug's emergence solves Bruins' biggest problem


Can Torey Krug play golf?  Anybody know?

Just wondering, because with the accuracy and speed of that one timer, he could probably make a very good living going around hustling at driving ranges…

…but unlike the fictional Happy Gilmore and the Waterbury Wolves, one can be pretty sure that the Boston Bruins want to tap the undrafted rookie’s enormous potential before turning him loose to live that dream.

The “Krug Missile”? The “Happy timer”?  Call it what you will, Krug’s long range one-timers are lethal, and the talk of the hockey world – not to mention a major reason why the Bruins are headed to the Eastern Conference finals to take on the Pittsburgh Penguins.

His impact should not be overstated, because he is just one player – but it should not be understated either for if it were not for the defenseman’s contributions on both ends of the ice, chances are the Bruins are still locked in a death-struggle with the New York Rangers for the right to go to the conference finals.

That, we don’t know for sure – but one thing that we do know is that the Bruins are headed to the Conference finals, and regardless of whether injured defenseman Andrew Ference is healthy enough to return to the lineup, coach Claude Julien would have to be as clueless to momentum as Gilmore was to golf etiquette to scratch Krug from the roster to make room for the veteran…

…and it’s not just the sniper vision and wicked long drives, but also his confidence and skill with the puck that enables him to be aggressive in clearing the defensive zone – something that the Bruins struggled with all season and cost them a win or two along the way, including two of the three losses to the Penguins.

So if Julien and Bruins’ management knew what they had in the demure defenseman who was tearing it up with the Providence Bruins, why didn’t they bring him up when they were mired in their March funk?

“The offense has always been there,” Bruins’ Assistant GM Don Sweeney is quoted as saying, “but he needed to spend the year down in Providence, he had to learn basically how to be a defenseman, and not just a guy who wheels and shoots”.

Watching Krug personally escort the puck out of the zone, using his speed and feel for angles and leverage to weave through traffic in the slot mere feet in front of goalie Tuukka Rask makes for must-see hockey, mostly for the split second of heart stopping high anxiety it causes Bruins fans.  It is effective, if not cringe-worthy…

…something not lost on Sweeney. “He learned it, he picked it up quickly.” he said of Krug soaking in the nuances in Providence, then added, “I still think he’s going struggle with it, he’s a small guy and it takes a while to learn real NHL defense.”

With Sweeney’s words ringing true for any rookie, one has only to glance at how the Michigan State product arrived at this moment to realize he was destined to do so – and further, to explain why the Bruins were relentless in their pursuit to sign Krug when he decided to leave college after his Junior season.

Playing in the now defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association as a member of the Michigan State Spartans, and facing competition from the likes of Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame, Krug was named a first-team defenseman for the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons, taking home both the scoring title and the CCHA Player of the year honors after his 2011-12 season…

…which was also his last with the Spartans, the 5′ 8″ Krug signing an entry level contract with the Bruins shortly after hoisting the award, joining the Bruins’ AHL affiliate in Providence with a reputation as a smart, fast puck handler who shows a lot of heart going toe-to-toe on the backcheck and who creates offensive opportunities for himself as a fourth attacker and a future as a premier power play option.

In one AHL season, Krug accumulated 45 points in 63 games played, including 13 goals.

“There’s got to be a reason they wanted him so badly.” quipped Dennis Seidenberg whose injury was the impetus for the team to recall Krug from Providence, “I think they knew what they had with him playing down there. They knew he was something special and he’s shown it every game so far.”

So special, in fact, that when Seidenberg was cleared to return to action, it was fellow rookie Dougie Hamilton that became a healthy scratch, Hamilton making that decision all the more simple for Julien by allowing Rangers’ Chris Kreider to beat him down the slot for the overtime game winner in Game 4 of the Conference Quarterfinals…

…and regardless of what happens when Ference returns, the kid is living in the moment, taking nothing for granted.

“Every game I’ve been able to take a step back before the national anthem, look around, kind of close my eyes and think about everything for a second,” Krug said after Saturday’s elimination of the Rangers. “I understand how special this is. With that, I just go out there and try to play my game and contribute to the team any way possible.”

“And the more the coaching staff puts me out on the ice, the better I feel,”

Krug’s confidence on the ice is infectious and brings kind of a breathtaking quality to a sport that becomes more about veteran leadership and big game experience the deeper a team travels into the playoffs, and it sparks youthful memories and elicits knowing smiles from appreciative teammates.

“You see how hard he plays and you try to thrive off that” said spark plug Milan Lucic, “and you remember the feeling when you were that young and playing as a rookie in the playoffs.”

But despite all of this, the original question remains: Can Torey Krug play golf?

Boston Bruins’ fans hope they don’t find that out for another month or so…

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