So let’s just focus on this one ridiculous statistical comparison before we move on to the finer points of the growing legend of Torey Krug.
Yes, the Bobby Orr comparison:
■ Krug, the 5-foot-9-inch defenseman with shots engineered by the Raytheon guided missile division, now has four goals in five career playoff games. Ten days ago, he was an emergency fill-in for a banged-up blue line. Today he’s the back line gold standard, a key reason the Bruins could slip by the Penguins in the Eastern Conference finals.
■ Orr, who put the Hockey in the Hub of Hockey upon his arrival on Causeway Street in the 1960s, didn’t score his fourth playoff goal until his 17th postseason game. The kid with the buzzcut from Parry Sound, Ontario, was a fairly quick study, but even Orr, who revolutionized the position of scoring defenseman, needed 17 playoff games to fire four into the net. All, by the way, in an era when scoring was much easier.
OK, good, we got that out of the way. Now let’s end the No. 4 comparisons. Krug is no Bobby Orr. Said another way, there will never be another Orr, which is both a good and bad thing in our town. They build statues for players like Orr, in large part because we don’t believe their likes ever will be seen again. If we’ve had the best, everything else is just the rest.
Krug, though, is a very special player. He is small, shifty, quick, and best of all, he shoots the puck a megaton. Best of all, he shoots it accurately, finding the 24-square-foot net the way a certain Foxborough quarterback finds receivers of all heights and widths. Not much pulls me out of the old press box chair anymore, but he did it Saturday with 3:48 gone in the second period with a one-timer he whistled by Henrik Lundqvist.
One shot. Game changed. Krug’s blast, on a power play, tied it at 1-1, and 36:12 later the Bruins and Rangers were lining up on the ice to shake hands. Bruins with bags packed for Pittsburgh. Rangers with bags packed for a trip back to New York, with the ice machine already powering down at Madison Square Garden.
“Unbelievable poise with the puck,’’ marveled teammate and veteran defenseman Dennis Seidenberg. “Great skating legs. He jumps to the open areas. And he makes very nice shots . . . I mean, perfect shots.’’
Witness case No. 3:48, which had Krug skating backward toward the top of the right wing circle on a power play as Tyler Seguin dished across a velvety, flat feed. Skate, skate, skate . . . load up the backswing . . . rip the forehander . . . wham! Krug’s rising, laser-fixed shot nearly tore a hole in the top right corner, beating world-class netminder Lundqvist over the shoulder.
Few players anywhere in the world, NHL, KHL, or otherwise, can deliver like that. In fact, neither Bobby Orr nor Ray Bourque took that shot. They had abundant other gifts, including powerful and feared shots, but they were built differently, skated differently, shot differently. Two former NHLers who come to mind, just for that one tool in the kit, are Reijo “Rexy” Ruotsalainen (Rangers) and Risto Siltanen (Whalers). They, too, were small, shifty, and loved to shoot.
“He’s been magic for us in this series,’’ said coach Claude Julien, regarding Krug. “We’ve always felt good about him in our organization.’’
During the NHL lockout that kept this season on ice until January, Julien ventured to Providence (AHL) to watch Krug develop. The more he saw, the more he liked. True, too, of GM Peter Chiarelli and assistant GM Don Sweeney.
“The best part is, it’s not an isolated case, right?’’ said Sweeney, asked moment’s after Saturday’s game about Krug’s goal. “You see that a lot from him, to the point now that you kind of expect it. It’s not just his shooting, but his passing, too. His offensive gifts are obvious.’’
Now only 22 years old, Krug signed last spring after three years at Michigan State.
“If I wanted to play in the NHL,’’ said Krug, explaining his mind-set, “then nothing was going to get in my way.’’
However, in part because of his size, management felt he needed to learn more about the pro game than shooting and passing. Some of the learning curve was just getting stronger, building body mass to fend off bigger, stronger players in the NHL. And some of it was positioning and being able to make faster, more prudent reads.
All of those less exciting skills ultimately will determine the length and greatness of Krug’s career. He has a shot that could lead him to stardom, in a hurry. If he can’t fully blossom in the other areas, he could well be the next Ruotsalainen, Siltanen, or even Greg Hawgood.
“I have to do things like that if I want to stick around,’’ Krug said, referring to his early offensive success. “If I’m not scoring or making an impact like that, I won’t be around. They’ll find a bigger guy.’’
They certainly can look for bigger, but the search won’t turn up anyone who hits it the way Krug does, who lands it with his accuracy and consistency. We take certain gifts to be selfevident. If all the other parts of being a defenseman fill in as they should, even if only to a point of respectability, the Bruins have on their hands, in their lineup, a very special player.
“The Krug goal,’’ mused teammate Brad Marchand, “gave us a tremendous boost.’’
It made the difference. Not all the difference, but enough of a difference. Let’s not get carried away just yet, but we’ve seen players like that around here before, haven’t we?