It’s still possible that Torey Krug may not be in uniform for the Bruins’ season opener against Tampa Bay on Oct. 3.
The fight for the two open blue-line spots will be between Krug, Dougie Hamilton, and Matt Bartkowski, according to general manager Peter Chiarelli.
“I guess that doesn’t rule out other D-men that may be among the seven,” Chiarelli said. “But common sense would dictate that it’s those three guys for those two spots.”
Krug’s touch on the power play, however, makes it a virtual guarantee he’ll be among the six-pack for the season opener.
In Monday’s 6-3 win over Montreal at the Bell Centre, Krug quarterbacked the No. 1 power-play unit and was the only defenseman. The other four skaters were David Krejci, Jarome Iginla, Milan Lucic, and Carl Soderberg.
Krug helped the Bruins go 4 for 6 on the power play. Of Krug’s three assists, two came on the power play. The Bruins are counting on similar man-up production from Krug when the real games begin.
“That’s where I thrive,” Krug said. “That’s why I’m here. If I wasn’t playing on the power play, I don’t think they’d have much room for me up here with the big club. I’ve got to make sure I’m doing my best to help the power play succeed. For the most part, that’s distributing the puck to the forwards and letting guys like Krech, Looch, and Iggy do their thing. It’s very exciting. It’s always fun playing offense. You have more fun playing offense than defense. I think everyone would agree with that.”
Krug has a history of power-play results. Three of his four postseason goals last year were in man-advantage situations. In Providence, Krug scored five PP goals. The numbers indicate that Krug is just as confident shooting the puck as he is dishing it to his teammates.
The Bruins have four preseason games remaining in which to tinker with their power play. But based on their practices and Monday’s results, their first unit will remain together, although Zdeno Chara replacing Soderberg as a down-low option is a possibility.
The formation starts with Krug. The point man will be responsible for setting up the power play. The coaches expect Krug to retrieve pucks rapidly, then push the pace on the breakout. When the Bruins gain the offensive zone, Krug will be at the point, either in the middle or left side.
From there, Krug will consider his options. Krug can look to Krejci on his right. Lucic will be in front. Soderberg or Chara will also be roaming down low. Iginla will be stationed on the left side, either along the half-boards or circle.
It will be up to Krug to make brisk decisions. Krug’s performance against the Canadiens emphasized he’s ready for the role.
“It was good,” Krug said of the unit’s flow. “We spent a lot of time after practice passing to each other. We got into a game and moved the puck well. We were shooting the puck. That was important. When you’re shooting more pucks, what that does is opens up passing lanes. Looch was able to find a couple passing lanes. So, it was good for us.”
Krug’s most dangerous option might be setting up Iginla. The Bruins have had offensive-minded right-shot forwards on the power play in previous seasons. They’ve tried out Krejci, Bergeron, Tyler Seguin, and Rich Peverley. But none of the left-side forwards have been regular one-time rippers. They’ve been quicker to snap wristers coming off the wall or to distribute the puck, either down low or back to the point.
Iginla didn’t show any of that hesitation against the Canadiens. He loaded up for multiple one-timers from the left circle. In the first period, Iginla opened the scoring with a left-side one-timer past Carey Price. Iginla could be the Bruins’ version of Steven Stamkos or Daniel Alfredsson — a right-shot pounder who could one-time Krug’s feeds.
Nathan Horton, the previous top-line right wing, wasn’t a one-time specialist. The Bruins deployed Horton in the high slot because of his snap shot.
“One of the issues I thought we had last year was that right-hand shot couldn’t get a one-timer away,” Julien said. “We tried Seguin, Peverley, stuff like that. Now we’ve got a guy who can really shoot the puck the way a guy like Stamkos shoots it. I think that helps to have a guy like Iggy there. He’s got a great one-time shot. That’s another step in the right direction for our power play.”
Krug is also expected to shoot. Opponents may overload on Iginla and open shooting lanes for Krug.
Krug’s slapper may not be as hard as Chara’s, but he doesn’t need much time to wind up and rip.
“What happens is teams will locate and say, ‘Oh, Iggy’s going to hang out on this side, so we’ve got to make sure we have a guy out to block his shot,’ ” Krug said. “Or, ‘Krech’s going to be over on this side, looking to make plays, so let’s cover those two guys.’ Then I’m sitting up there alone. The more I shoot the puck, the better Grade-A chances they’re going to get. It’s definitely a mixture of distributing and shooting. It all starts with shooting the puck and making sure we’re not standing still and being static.”