We know the situation in Boston with Andrew Ference, Dennis Seidenberg, and Wade Redden all going down in round one. But Boston has the luxury of organizational depth at this position, and defensemen in the AHL who are ready to go, already in playoff mode because the Providence Bruins are in the middle of an awesome playoff run right now as well.
But the P-Bruins defensive corps are depleted to dangerous lows now, too. They barely had enough healthy bodies to fill all six slots in the lineup in game three against the baby Penguins on Wednesday night. If they haven't lost guys to injury, they have lost them to getting called up to Boston. Matt Bartkowski was first, and well-deserved, and now Torey Krug will be joining Boston against the New York Rangers.
First off, I'd just like to say !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! about Bartkowski scoring a goal in game seven against the Leafs. And !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! about Bartkowksi's overall play in that game. Providence Coach Bruce Cassidy was at the game, probably watching like a proud papa, as he should. What huge strides Bartkowski has made in Providence the last few years. It's really shows how important the AHL is to a team, and how well our team works with the AHL. (It helps that Peter Chiarelli is General Manager of both teams, which is not the case for 28 other NHL teams). We're sad to see Bartkowski grow up and graduate to the NHL probably for good, but that's the nature of the AHL.
Anyway, back to the most recent call up: Torey Krug. Is he ready? More importantly, will he be able to fill a useful role?
Krug had a fantastic rookie season with Providence this year. He's part of what I call the "P-Bruins Rookie Trifecta" which is Ryan Spooner at forward, Niklas Svedberg in net, and Krug on defense. They are young, exciting, and awesome at winning. And they have ridiculously promising futures with Boston. Not sure if Krug's future is right now, though.
Krug has appeared in game(s) for Boston this season and last season. He has had success and from what I can tell, has been popular with fans. In his first two games in the NHL late last season after being signed as a UFA out of college, he showed promise right away with one assist. He has another assist in one game this season. He still has some work to do on his game.
He is a good offensive defenseman. He has a lot of talent in that regard. He is a great skater, moves the puck well, looks and plays like a forward so it's valuable when he pinches (which is often), and he is a huge asset on the power play. He isn't very big, but he can be tough and rough when he needs to be. He's learned to stand up for himself this year in Providence. There is one problem: he isn't that strong defensively. And that's why I'm a little worried about how he is going to fit in on the current bruised Bruins blue-line.
To be clear, I knew this was coming. Krug was the next in line on defense to be called up to Boston after Bartkowski, but I don't think it is necessarily the right decision. Considering the nature of the defensemen that the Bruins are losing - mainly Seidenberg - I think David Warsofsky might be a better decision to call up. Warsofsky made the big team out of training camp, though never cracked the line-up before being sent back down to Providence. He hasn't played particularly phenomenal in the playoffs, which is probably why he didn't jump ahead of Krug in the call up line, but he is at least stronger in his own zone than Krug.
But back to Krug. It's hard to judge Krug's abilities in his own zone too much because he plays with dead weight as his defensive partner in Garnet Exelby - literally the most useless player in the history of uselessness. I think this stat pretty much sums it up: in Providence's 8-5 victory in game one against the baby Pens, Exelby and Krug were the only two players on the roster with a negative plus/minus rating. How does that happen? Probably Exelby's fault. But Krug, who was producing points at an astounding rate to close out the final months of the regular season in the AHL, has not been transitioning that seamlessly into the AHL playoffs.
I tend to trust the Bruins management's decisions, so I will give them the benefit of the doubt with Krug. Don Sweeney is at every P-Bruins playoff game, so it's not like they're just calling up Krug blindly. He has a lot of strengths that I mentioned above. He is among the leaders in shots on goal in the AHL playoffs despite having trouble scoring, so he is doing something right. With the right defensive pairing (anyone who isn't Exelby), he might not be such a disaster in his own zone. His ability to make passes out of his own zone will be difficult to make because I'm seeing a lot of turnovers in the neutral zone in Providence.
But, the NHL is another level. He has some experience already, which will help. And I certainly think Providence's current playoff intensity is another advantage for Krug coming into the NHL playoffs for the first time. He can join fellow baby-faced rookie Dougie Hamilton in being wide-eyed at their first professional playoff experiences. We'll miss him like hell in Providence. And he joins Milan Lucic and Tuukka Rask in having an awesome name to chant if and when he scores (KRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUG!)