The Evolution of Marcus Kruger

Marcus+Kruger

This year, the Blackhawks have enjoyed a strong start to their Stanley Cup defense. One of the keys to their strong start has been Marcus Kruger, who has continued to improve in every part of his game.

In 29 games, Kruger has matched his offensive production – four goals, nine assists – from 47 games during the abbreviated 2012-13 regular season.

On the rare occasion that he’s looked for his shot, Kruger has been much more effective this year as well. His shot percentage of 12.5 is more than double his total from last season (6.67). Only Brandon Pirri and Patrick Kane have a better shooting percentage than Kruger for the Hawks this year.

Indeed, if Kruger looked for his offense more frequently he might be an even bigger part of the Blackhawks’ scoring. Kruger’s individual points percentage (percentage of goals scored by the Hawks while Kruger is on the ice that he had a point on) is 78.6, which trails only Michal Handzus and Kane to date.

However, Kruger’s individual Fenwick (the total number of shots and missed shots from Kruger) of 29 is better than only Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Rozsival and Handzus so far this year.

Perhaps more important, he continues to be committed to the defensive end of the ice; entering Thursday, he ranks third among all NHL forwards with 29 blocked shots.

His biggest improvement has come at the dot, where he is winning 54.6 percent of his faceoffs this year. That’s an improvement of eight percent from last year; he’s even winning more than 40 percent of his short-handed faceoffs this year, another significant improvement.

Digging deeper into the numbers, it shows that coach Joel Quenneville’s confidence in the 23-year-old center has continued to grow as well.

Kruger is facing some of the toughest competition every night. His average relative Corsi of opposing players, weighted by head-to-head ice time – 0.799 – ranks fourth among Blackhawks forward behind only Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews.

And Kruger has earned that confidence. Kruger begins only 23 percent of his shifts in the offensive zone, the third-lowest percentage on the Hawks. However, 42.2 percent of his shifts end with the puck in the offensive zone, a jump of nearly 20 percent.

His continued improvement could put him in the mix for a spot on Sweden’s roster in the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, where he could join Chicago teammates Niklas Hjalmarsson and Johnny Oduya. Oduya represented Sweden in 2010.

The advanced stats cited in this story are from BehindTheNet.ca and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.

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8 Responses to The Evolution of Marcus Kruger

  1. ebonyraptor says:

    Kruger may never possess elite level skills but what he does possess is elite level tenacity and heart, and his hockey sense isn’t too bad either. He battles and gives everything – along the boards, in front of the net, blocking shots. He may have higher aspirations but he plays the role he has now with 100% effort 100% of the time.

    There may not be a lot of #16 jerseys sold but Kruger is a key piece of the depth that makes the Blackhawks an elite team.

  2. JS says:

    Love love love the numbers, Tab. I’ve been checking out extraskater.com a lot lately and it’s really fascinating to see how Q deploys his players. I think Kruger’s line went 3 games in a row without a single faceoff in the offensive zone. It’s incredible how much trust he has in that line.

    The advancment in hockey statistics is awesome and such a great learning tool. You can really make sure your eye is seeing what is actually happening.

  3. AJ says:

    Well advanced metrics at least validate certain assumptions. Like how tremendous Patrick Kane was last year dragging around whoever was on his line or how effective a healthy Dave Bolland actually was (and I stress healthy).

    Kruger is a solid player which is evident by his play as long as WGN isn’t doing close ups and validated by the advanced metrics especially the d zone starts and o zone finishes. I think winning more face offs has helped tremendously and benefited his line mates as well.

  4. RyanDale says:

    Excellent write up Tab, lotta good info so thanks. It’s nice to see Marcus get some spotlight here, and its well deserved. Love his game, and given he’s only 23 I expect he will just keep getting better. He’s looking at a very long career I think. Coaches are always
    wanting guys like 16 on a club.

  5. Travis says:

    Is it me or is Kruger just as good along the boards as Toews?

    Love this article. Kruger deserves it.

  6. Sr. Brad says:

    ER, I agree so much…this is why Shaw is a great hockey player too…great heart, great compete…

  7. Mike says:

    Thanks Tab, Kruger deserves fan attention for all the reasons you state. Krugs is also adaptable. Regardless of who Q puts on his line Kruger always plays a consistent if not noteworthy game. Is he too valuable as a 4C to put at 2C???? An underpaid Hawk.

  8. Peter says:

    Good writeup Tab. I think the Blackhawks are such a good team because of players like Marcus playing the role they have been given on this team. He could probably play differently on another team (look for more offense), but he thrives in what the Blackhawks ask him to do. Sometimes a little less money and winning goes further than the fat payday. Having players who understand that and then who perform to that is awesome. Big 16 fan here.

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