Torey Krug and cures for the winter blues

Welcome to the first days of the dead of winter. Work schedules have resumed, unabated by holiday cheer and all the festive goodies that come with it. Snow is starting to appear and the days are getting colder and colder as they ramp up towards the real stuff we’re likely due in February.

So when I come home, it’s nice to change into something comfortable, sit by my desk and have something pleasant to focus on, possibly in the background or possibly with rapt attention. A hockey game is great for this, of course. There’s the swishing of skates and pucks against the ice, the roars and groans of a crowd when appropriate, goal horns and whistles to signal your more significant moments, on and on.

But it’s more than just the sound. It helps to have a team to root for, and the Bruins have been that team for most of my life, with the added benefit of actually becoming a good team for most of my adult life. There’s Jack Edwards screaming about some improbable save or grave injustice, there’s Patrice Bergeron winning another faceoff, there’s Zdeno Chara clearing pucks and bodies away from Tuukka Rask. The constants are comforting, and the competitiveness just feeds into that compelling nature.

Another competitive constant has to be Torey Krug. He’s a frantic ball of energy on the blue line, and he’s prone to the occasional ridiculous play.

Specifically, I can’t stop watching this goal from last week against Calgary:

Having the defenseman spin around and trigger the rush up the ice has been both a priority under Bruce Cassidy and, more broadly, standard operating procedure in hockey for some time. Even a stay-at-home defenseman will at least send the puck up to a trailing forward or another defenseman to get things going.

Krug hit another level here, though. After Jaroslav Halak settled the puck behind the net, Krug swung through the faceoff circle, looked up, saw David Pastrnak racing towards the net and turned the TD Garden into a ice-coated racquetball court. He aims dead-on for that Monster Energy ad to the right of the net, and the puck caroms directly to Pastrnak in stride. Now it’s a breakaway, and there aren’t many forwards in the league right now who can top him in a one-on-one battle with a netminder.

The foresight to even try a move like that boggles me. Looking up, reading the defense and how his offense was already moving, Krug essentially says “fuck it” and whips that thing up the ice, counting on the bounce back to Pastrnak. Even if it doesn’t result in a goal, getting the puck to ricochet back to Pastrnak’s stick is insane enough.

It’s not the only moment of on-ice telepathy involving Krug this year. Take this goal about a month ago, the game-winner in overtime in Ottawa:

The sequence there goes Torey Krug > David Krejci > Krug > Brad Marchand > Krejci > Krug > Goal. Krug’s been a mainstay in the Bruins’ primary 3-on-3 grouping since overtime changed to that format, but it’s especially absurd here. Krejci, Krug and Marchand performed a ballet which the Senators were hypnotized into watching. [1]

Krug’s offensive game has never been in question — the immediate impact he made when pressed into service in the 2013 playoffs, especially in the second-round series with the New. York Rangers, is a series of moments I’ll never forget. But when he’s going well on defense, that funnels up to his offense, and 28 points through his first 32 games has him on pace to reach 60 points for the season. He had another two assists and a +2 rating in the Bruins’ 4-0 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. The -7 for the season doesn’t look great, though it’s more reflective of the Bruins’ aggression on power plays with him as the lone defenseman, and the nine short-handed goals against so far as a result.

That’s the analytical stuff, though, that just backs up the eye and the feeling. This post-holiday stretch, when reality hits and the fun of waking up late, eating everything in sight and not having to head into work comes to a sudden end, is always a little rough. It helps to have something else to escape to in that period. For another year, the Bruins are doing their part to help out. Having Krug do his ridiculous thing on the ice only adds to the escape.

1. Another fantastic element to this season that deserves its own post has to be David Krejci. While Patrice Bergeron was sidelined, Krejci stepped up to his first line spot and reminded everyone of the magic he can conjure with quality linemates. He’s fine with rookies, obviously, but he can be transcendent with real wingers.

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