BostonBruins.com - Torey Krug. Do you know his name by now? There are a lot of Bostonians and hockey fans who didn't before Game One of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
The 5-foot-9 defenseman was recalled to Boston following the B's first-round series against Toronto, with an ailing back end. Veterans Andrew Ference, Wade Redden and Dennis Seidenberg were sidelined.
Before his playoff debut, Krug had suited up in three previous NHL games (all regular season action), including the 6-5 shootout game against Montreal this season, and two games in 2011-12, with his NHL debut coming against against Pittsburgh. In that trio of games, he put up two assists.
He now has five NHL postseason games in his repertoire, with four goals and an assist - three of his scores coming on the power play.
His first career goal made it a tie game against the Rangers in Game One, which the Bruins would later go on to win in overtime. His next three were just as huge, with his fourth tying the game once again and surging the Bruins to their 3-1, Game Five win to clinch the series.
"It’s pretty amazing. I didn’t think, especially watching Game Seven against Toronto, back home in Providence, I didn’t think I would ever be in this position," said Krug. "But now that I’m here, I’m just glad I can help contribute and that’s my goal from here on out."
At the time, the defenseman was amidst Providence's own playoff run towards the AHL's Calder Cup. He played in seven games, putting up three assists, following his 63-game, 45-point (13 goals, 32 assists) rookie season as a pro.
Krug spent the three previous years with Michigan State University, racking up offensive numbers at the college level (83 points, to be exact). The Bruins signed the highly sought-after undrafted free agent last March.
For the blueliner, offense has always been his asset.
"Well I think there's only two guys listed as 5-9 in the NHL that have jobs right now," Krug smiled, as he sat in the Bruins' locker room at their practice rink in Wilmington, Mass. A few Bruins filtered in and out, noticing him in the midst of an interview and making sure to give him a "yeah, Kruger" as they walked by.
"Obviously it's pretty rare to have a smaller defenseman on your team. You've got to make yourself unique; that's what I try to do, obviously with the offensive side of my game. My commitment level; I think that's a big part of my success. It's just what I try to bring to the table."
For any smaller player trying to make it to the NHL, whether forward, or on defense - but, especially, on defense - there's a list of people along the way who say it can't be done.
"You know, I get told that all the time. Even today people say, 'He's too small, he's not going to be able to last,'" said Krug.
"But there's never been a doubt in my mind that I wasn't going to make it to the NHL."
"I think's something that you can pass along to the kids, that if you know you're going to make it, don't let anybody hold you back. That's kind of been my philosophy my whole life."
That confidence has penetrated his mind to the point where, as Bruins' Head Coach Claude Julien describes him, he has "ice in his veins."
"I don't know if anybody's ever described me that way or my character. That's a very big compliment," said Krug, of his coach's remark.
"As far as that goes, you just try to stay focused and you try to tune everything out. When you're out on the ice it's easy to do. Some players it's easier than others. It's been a lot of fun for me and I just look forward to next game, next opportunity."
That next opportunity happens to be the Eastern Conference Finals and the East's near-best offensive team in the Pittsburgh Penguins. They're full of talents like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Jarome Iginla, among others.
But you get the feeling that Krug honestly won't be deterred by the chance of ending up out on the ice with any or all of the above.
"Yeah, I think in my first NHL game I had a one-on-one with Sidney Crosby. I've been out there before, there's no time for jitters now, it's playoff hockey," he said, coolly and calmly.
"There's no room for mistakes. I'm just excited to get the opportunity to be out there. I'm excited to have the chance to go up against the best, so we're excited."
The Bruins are going up against the best, but they also get to play in front of the best. Krug grew up in Livonia, Michigan, amidst the Detroit Red Wings' self-proclaimed "Hockeytown" area of the country.
But Krug is right at home in Boston and among the Garden faithful.
"It's crazy. I came to Boston because they had the expectations to win a Stanley Cup every year. That's what I wanted to do," he said.
"As far as the fans go, it's unbelievable. The noise level in that building is incredible; I can't even hear myself think sometimes. It is a hockey town here."
The "Kruuuuuug" chant from Game Five, every time he touched the puck after his game-tying goal, immediately came to mind.
"I know Detroit has the label as Hockeytown, but it's incredible the amount of support we get here, the Black & Gold you see walking around the city. It's crazy. I'm very glad I get to be a part of it."
It's been a whirlwind year - and past few weeks - for Krug, following the trip up I-95 from Providence to the big club.
So, with now being a bit more known around the city and the fans, is he being recognized?
"A little bit, more and more. I’m so small that I don’t think people really think I could be a hockey player," he laughed.
"It’s a fun time and like I said, I’m glad I get to share it with great people."
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