With the season now finished, I’ll be reviewing the individual performances of Chicago Blackhawks players and giving out grades based on their play during the 2013-14 season. In this article I’ll take a look at Marcus Kruger.
Kruger took a solid step forward during the regular season this year, contributing a career-high 28 points despite getting next to no power play time and getting shifts almost exclusively in a checking role. With Ben Smith and Brandon Bollig on his wings, he centered perhaps the league’s best fourth line during the first half of the season. Even after Bollig’s play fell off the metaphorical cliff, Kruger continued playing at a high level. I would be remiss not to mention his penalty killing prowess; after a dreadful beginning to the year, the Blackhawks were great while shorthanded, and much of this is attributable to Kruger’s willingness to step in shooting lanes and overall effort while one man short.
The postseason was just okay for Kruger, something you may have noticed has become a bit of a theme for the players I’ve reviewed thus far. That aforementioned penalty kill was fantastic during the first two rounds, but it became a tire fire in the Western Conference Final against the Los Angeles Kings. The Blackhawks were repeatedly burned while shorthanded, and while this is by no means Kruger’s fault alone, he certainly deserves some of the blame.
Kruger’s even strength playoff performance wasn’t particularly good either, but he had a number of things working against him. For one, Joel Quenneville couldn’t seem to decide on a fourth line, and was almost perpetually shuffling Kruger’s linemates around. Further, when Quenneville did settle on a fourth line for any given game, it usually contained Bollig — a player who may very well have been even worse in the second half of the season than the much-maligned Michal Handzus.
All together, Kruger’s 2013-14 was fairly good in spite of the playoff difficulties. He earns a B.