Boston Bruins defenseman Torey Krug needs to keep playing the way he's been playing and not falter in any fashion if he is to move into the upper echelon of Calder Trophy contenders. He is not doing much within his control to hurt his case these days, but enough competitors are tipping the scale by making a greater all-around impression.
For the immediate future, he is holding his prominent place in the conversation.
His assist on the icebreaker and eventual game-winner tied him with three veteran blueliners for No. 10 among point-based point-getters with 11. It knotted him with two freshman forwards for third among all rookie scorers and has tied him for third in the Bruins' point column.
The productive outing was his fourth straight and his eighth out of the last 12. He has not gone through consecutive games without a scoresheet submission since he had three straight pointless performances between Oct. 10 and Oct. 14.
Calgary’s Sean Monahan is one of the two rookies in a tie with Krug, production-wise, with 11 points through 17 outings. Meanwhile, the other three in the top five each have a crisp case to rate ahead of the Boston blueliner in at least one key area.
San Jose’s Tomas Hertl all but speaks for himself with his 10 goals to lead all Sharks and 16 points to lead all rookies. Mark Arcobello and Alex Chiasson are both coupling their scoring with versatility on the special teams’ spectrum.
Reporter Chris Stevenson of the QMI Agency noted Chiasson’s second-nature tendency to cut “straight to the front of the net” and likened the Dallas youngster to Ryan Smyth in that regard. In addition to his gritty production, Chiasson is making an impression as a penalty killer, averaging 73 shorthanded seconds per night.
Another freshman forward who is killing penalties more regularly than Krug (18 seconds per game) is size-defying competitor Arcobello.
Of Arcobello and Oilers teammate Taylor Fedun, David Staples of the Edmonton Journal writes the following: “Their puck sense enables them to...more often than not make the right defensive play... On the attack, with their eyes up almost always, they’re both excellent passers, who make their teammates better by feeding them strong passes...at the right moment.”
Those assets have translated to 87 shorthanded seconds per night and 10 assists, the most among all rookies so far.
However, Staples’ Journal colleague, Jim Matheson, envisions a lesser role for Arcobello as the season progresses. There is already reason to believe that will come sooner rather than later, seeing how cold Arcobello has been, producing in only one of his last nine outings.
Hertl has been more consistent through his first six weeks. His log bears only two sets of consecutive pointless outings, neither one lasting longer than three games.
Hertl was rightly named the NHL’s top rookie for October and continues to cook in November. His latest highlight was a breakaway deposit Sunday night at Winnipeg to help him bag five points in his last three outings.
Defensively, Krug has not exactly jutted out as a liability for the Bruins. He could earn credit for assimilating himself into a stable blue-line brigade.
Even so, while none of them has saturated the scoresheet like he has, other rookie rearguards have set a sounder six-week tone.
With nine opposing tallies occurring over his 301:24 of cumulative ice time, Krug boasts an unofficially recorded, but existing, goals-against average of 1.79. While that is not worthy of complaint, it is nonetheless higher than his team’s collective GAA of 1.71 and higher than the 1.52 average of No. 1 netminder Tuukka Rask.
Conversely, there are three defensemen in Krug’s class who have retained an average lower than 2.00 within more minutes of play and kept that average substantially lower than that of their team.
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DeKeyser and Murphy in particular have done their parts in an easily recorded manner with 36 and 26 blocked shots, respectively. In fairness, these unripe blueliners may not stay this stingy for the balance of their first season, which works in Krug’s favor as long as he keeps ahead with his own strengths.
But then there is Seth Jones, he of the 26 blocks and a 3.00 GAA despite playing on an underachieving Nashville team that has allowed 3.06 strikes every 60 minutes. Jones is tied for second in the league among freshmen defensive point-getters with seven points. He might have more if the Predators were able to give him more chances.
The fact that Jones is averaging more than two minutes per night in each special teams situation is another reason to judge him ahead of other first-year NHL defenders.
Krug’s spot in the footrace is more up in the air with the likes of DeKeyser, Lindholm and Murphy. That status should hold up, especially as long as he stays ahead in the scoring department and does not implode on the home front.
But at best, he sits either behind or in a virtual tie with Chiasson, Hertl and Jones with the season-long viability of Arcobello, DeKeyser, Lindholm and Murphy all up for debate.
With the quarter mark of the 2013-14 campaign drawing near, he ought to be on the borderline of the three tentative Calder finalists, tilting to the outside looking in.
That is without even inviting Nathan MacKinnon, the reigning first overall draft pick and sturdy Colorado third-line center, into the equation. A gradual snowball into a more celestial latter three quarters is not out of the question for a player of MacKinnon’s position and skill set.
As glamorous as his offensive numbers are and as threateningly flashy as his offensive style is, Krug is in for a protracted derby with other fruitful freshmen. His pace for a final scoring transcript of 29-24-53 will be a long shot to retain, especially since no rookie defenseman has reached the 50-point plateau in this century.
Furthermore, he will be as prone as any young defenseman to committing more frequent errors in the home zone as he logs more mileage in the coming months.
This is not to foretell any kind of colossal crumble for Krug by the end of 2013-14. Rather, it is to note that the flair he has been flaunting of late is unlikely to catapult him to a Calder nomination, in spite of where it may place him in any current power ranking.
Unless otherwise indicated, all statistics for this report were found via nhl.com