How Matt Grzelcyk plans to keep Bruins’ power play going without Torey Krug

Matt Kalman
November 11, 2019 - 2:14 pm

Don’t cheat while pondering this question: what was the Bruins’ power-play percentage the first 11 games of last season when Torey Krug was out of the lineup.

Did you guess? It was 28.13 percent. The Bruins’ percentage right now leads the league at 29.8 percent. Certainly the improved lethality of David Pastrnak’s offensive game should make up for that one percentage point between last year’s Krug-less man-advantage and this year’s.

Krug (upper body) didn’t practice Monday and is definitely out for the Bruins’ game against Florida on Tuesday. He’ll be re-evaluated over the course of this week, according to coach Bruce Cassidy. Matt Grzelcyk practiced in Krug’s spot next to Brandon Carlo for 5-on-5 play and on the first power-play unit.

Grzelcyk filled in admirably for Krug at the start of last season when the Bruins’ power play went 9-for-32 in those 11 games. It took a couple games, but Grzelcyk learned how to be his own man and not try to be Krug 2.0. He’ll apply those lessons this time around.

“Yeah I think play simple, obviously, especially early. Just try to kind of get my feet wet with kind of playing back with those guys a little bit, if it goes that way,” Grzelcyk said after practice Monday. “Just get the puck in the hands of them, make plays and if you can join the rush, kind of be that fourth forward out there while still being under control. That will go a long way for sure, just make sure that I have my legs and keep my head up.”

It’ll be up to Grzelcyk to determine when’s best to set up the scoring machine that is Pastrnak, look for Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand or Danton Heinen, or take his own shot to keep the heat on the penalty killers.

“I mean obviously at the end of the day, it’s still hockey. You just want to play with your head up and if they’re going to not respect my shot and kind of flair out to the flanks, I got to get it to the front of the net and let Heino or Bergy kind of converge and get rebounds that way,” Grzelcyk said. “Hopefully if we start getting pucks back, then we can create a little chaos for the other team, then plays will open up because they’re world-class players. So at the end of the day, play with confidence and just trust my ability to move it.”

Grzelcyk is the most logical replacement for Krug on that unit, not just because of his capabilities but because he’s a left-handed shot that won’t disrupt the flow of Boston’s plays.

Miller makes a stride

Kevan Miller wore black instead of red at practice, so that meant the veteran defenseman moved ever closer to a 2019-20 debut. But there’s still no timetable for him to get into a game.

Cassidy’s practice was higher-paced and more competitive than most in-season practices, and that suited Miller well.

“It felt good. I’ve been kind of practicing with the guys here in a non-contact jersey in some capacity for a little bit now. Obviously when you put a different colored jersey on, the regular one, it ups the ante a little bit. But it felt good and it was a good practice today, good test for sure. Another box checked,” Miller said.

Injury roll call

In addition to Krug, Jake DeBrusk (lower body), David Backes (upper body) and Brett Ritchie (upper body) didn’t practice and are out against the Panthers.

Urho’s up

To help make up for Krug’s absence the Bruins called up Urho Vaakanainen from Providence of the AHL. It’ll be a choice between Steven Kampfer and Vaakanainen, who has two assists in 15 games for the P-Bruins, to fill Krug’s lineup spot against Florida.

Cassidy said he’s received reports of improved play from Vaakanainen and the coach saw a different type player Monday.

“I see a guy that didn’t practice well last year, is what I saw to be honest with you,” Cassidy said. “He needed to up the urgency at the NHL level. Practices are half an hour to 40 minutes, this is not abnormal for young guys. A lot of them come in and they’re use to maybe being out there an hour and maybe the first 20 minutes to get warmed up.”

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