WILMINGTON (CBS) – Torey Krug’s drive for the Calder Trophy as NHL rookie of the year cooled in the weeks prior to the Olympic break.
Still, the defenseman ranks fifth among NHL rookies in points with 32. He still leads all rookies with 16 power-play points and is certainly still in the conversation based on his offensive game alone.
Just as important, though, if not more important, he’s a plus-11 and slowly but surely making progress in his defensive play.
That’s why Krug wasn’t thrilled that the league shut down for a couple weeks and why he was excited to be back on the practice ice at Ristuccia Arena on Thursday for the Bruins’ first post-Olympic practice, minus a few active Olympians, of course.
“I was kind of sad the break was coming because I felt my game was coming along,” said Krug after the Bruins’ assistant coaches ran the team through drills and some hard sprints.
“Especially defensively, I was getting more ice time against top players on the other team, especially with [Zdeno Chara] being gone [for Sochi early]. So confidence was growing, and defensively I’m excited with where it’s at. And I just want to continue to grow as a player and every day come to the rink. I’m still making mistakes, but it’s just about rebounding.”
Krug’s ability to rebound has been one of his most valuable assets throughout his career. He’s going to have to continue to keep his chin up after gaffes, but also reduce the amount of times the Bruins have to console him or live with an error.
Depending on what general manager Peter Chiarelli does at the trade deadline March 5 to replace Dennis Seidenberg, Krug might find himself in a few more challenging defensive situations in important games.
There’s no telling what injuries might do to the Bruins’ depth chart in the regular season and playoffs, and where Krug might wind up fitting.
A year ago, you could count Krug’s NHL games on one hand. He went on to take the Stanley Cup playoffs by storm against the New York Rangers. He quieted down against the Pittsburgh Penguins and Chicago Blackhawks, and even had a Game 1 to forget in the Stanley Cup finals.
He flaunted his thick skin and played better the rest of that series, and his presence on the power play has been invaluable to making the Bruins a more threatening offensive club. If experience is truly the water that’ll make Krug blossom into a better all-around player, he should be ready for stiffer competition come this year’s postseason.
Krug’s Olympic break wasn’t just spent yearning for a return to NHL action.
Like most of us, he watched some of the United States’ games and rooted on his countrymen. And in a fleeting moment here or there, he wondered what it would’ve been like to let his skates fly in Sochi or what it might be like to wear the American sweater in South Korea four years from now.
“I did. Watching it with [Kevan Miller] yesterday, it was crazy watching the way defenseman have to play the game. And defensively it’s a whole different world,” Krug said.
“There’s so much room out there, in the corners, for forwards to make players, and making plays in the neutral zone. It just looks like such a fun style of hockey. I saw [David Krejci] wheeling around and he was skating really hard and he got so much speed and playing with a lot of skill. It’s a lot of fun to watch. Hopefully one day it’d be fun to be a part of that.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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