Torey Krug has been an underdog most of his professional hockey career, and that hasn’t changed despite a breakout post-season this past spring.
The undersized defenseman who emerged from almost out of nowhere to score four goals and six points in the Boston Bruins run to the Stanley Cup Final is still fighting for a job in the starting lineup with the NHL club as a new season comes upon us.
“My goal is to be on the team opening night and throughout the season,” Krug told ESPN Boston, “but management is the one making that decision, so I’m just going to keep my head down, remain confident and do what I do.”
The 22-year-old Krug, listed at 5’9” and 180 pounds, was never drafted and had only three games worth of NHL experience to his credit prior to the 2013 playoffs. He spent most of last season with the Providence Bruins in the AHL, and began the playoffs there as well.
But he turned heads in the Eastern Conference semifinal against the New York Rangers, going on a tear that included scoring four goals in five games to help the Bruins advance.
His performance earned him the nod for top rookie at the halfway point of the playoffs, as decided by NHL.com writers, as per John Kreiser of NHL.com.
“It’s unbelievable, the poise he has with the puck. It’s nice to see a guy like Torey play so well,” Boston defenseman Dennis Seidenberg back in May.
“I don’t know if it’s out of nowhere. There’s got to be a reason [the Bruins] wanted him so badly. I think they knew what they had.”
Capitals prospect Madison Bowey is in trouble. The 21-year-old could face supplemental discipline for a pair of incidents that occurred in Game 4 of the Calder Cup Eastern Conference Final on Friday night.
The Hershey Bears defenseman was tossed from the game for delivering a high hit to the head of Toronto Marlies forward Kasperi Kapanen. The 19-year-old was shaken up on the play, but was able to skate off the ice on his own.
Bowey also appears to use a homophobic slur as the on-ice official is escorting him off the ice (the incident was caught on camera).
Here’s some footage of the hit:
Bowey was tossed from the game.
The hit might not be extremely vicious, but it’s unnecessarily high. The possible slur definitely doesn’t improve his odds of escaping without a suspension.
Earlier this season, ‘Hawks forward Andrew Shaw was suspended one game by the NHL for using a homophobic slur during a game.
Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop revealed he had strained ligaments in his ankle/shin area, which ultimately put him on the sidelines for the Eastern Conference Final.
Bishop was stretchered off the ice after suffering the injury in the first period of Game 1 versus the Pittsburgh Penguins, and never returned to game action, meaning back-up Andrei Vasilevskiy had to take over the starting duties for the duration of the series.
“When I went down, I felt a huge pop. I thought somebody two-handed me in the shin. Once I felt the pop and then it was a bunch of pressure and pain, I thought my leg broke,” Bishop told reporters.
“I pretty much strained all the stuff in my shin and ankle. I was coming back and it was getting better. I was able to skate there at the end but going down in the butterfly and those movements — like going up against the post — it was still really painful and I just wouldn’t have been effective.”
Bishop estimated he was getting close to a return, but still a “week or so” before he could play with the pain.
“It was getting there. Just tough timing.”
Bishop, 29, has one more year remaining on his current deal that comes with a cap hit of $5.95 million and is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of next season. Vasilevskiy, 21, played well when called upon in the post-season and has one year remaining on his deal. He’s slated to become a restricted free agent after next season.
Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acknowledged that at some point, a decision on their goalies will probably be necessary, either for salary cap reasons or perhaps a potential expansion draft.
“We’ve got two outstanding goaltenders. I know that,” said Yzerman.
Added Bishop: “If you look around this league right now, you need two goalies to win.”
Talk about a whirlwind season for Jonathan Drouin.
The talented forward, and third overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, went from the center of a well documented controversy for a public trade request to a pivotal component for the Tampa Bay Lightning in its playoff quest that fell just short of a Stanley Cup Final berth after a Game 7 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Final.
The 21-year-old Drouin, recalled from the AHL when Steven Stamkos was taken out of the lineup with a blood clot, scored five goals and 14 points in 17 playoff games. And, based on the comments of general manager Steve Yzerman to reporters, he’ll be a regular on this team when the 2016-17 season begins in the fall.
Drouin has one more year remaining on his entry-level contract before he’s a restricted free agent, as per General Fanager.
Funny how some things can change.
The Drouin trade request was one of the more contentious — not to mention ongoing — storylines this season. But it could be that both sides have since resolved their differences.
“I definitely want to be here,” said Drouin, as per the Tampa Bay Times. “I love the way this ended, I guess with this different and weird year. But the way this finished and it’s definitely somewhere I want to play.”
In this case, the best deal was the one Yzerman never made. Even as speculation and reports and rumor circulated the situation for weeks leading up to the trade deadline.
“He makes us a better team. Simple as that,” Yzerman told reporters. “He can do things — a talented young player that’s only going to get better.
“I think the best thing for this team is Jonathan Drouin being on it.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins, led by the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, were last in the Stanley Cup Final in 2009, when they hoisted hockey’s silver chalice.
The San Jose Sharks are in uncharted waters, having never been here before, and that includes Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, both veterans of more than 1,000 regular season games played.
Perhaps that’s why the Penguins, one of the marquee NHL teams given their generational super star Crosby, are -135 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to online bookmaker Bovada on Friday. The Sharks were listed as +115 underdogs.
The Penguins, a force in the NHL since a coaching change in mid-December, became the betting favorites to win it all following their series win over Alex Ovechkin and the rival Washington Capitals in the second round.
Game 1 of the final goes Monday in Pittsburgh, where the Penguins will start with home ice advantage.
So far in these playoffs, the Penguins have gone 7-3 at Consol Energy Center. The Sharks are 5-4 on the road, where they actually started 3-0 following the first round against the L.A. Kings.
Right now, the Sharks possess the top three point producers in these playoffs in Logan Couture, Joe Pavelski (the leading goal scorer with 13) and Brent Burns, while Phil Kessel — as part of that dynamic HBK Line — is fifth in the league and leads the Penguins with 18 points in 18 games.