The Bruins start their Eastern Conference semifinal match against the New York Rangers tonight. The Bruins have had a rough first round matchup, and due to it they are down several defensemen. They lost Andrew Ference to a blocked shot in game five, Wade Redden was out for game six, and Dennis Seidenberg only played thirty-seven seconds of game seven before he was sidelined after a rough first series hit.
The Bruins defenseman that remained had to step up their game. The captain, Zdeno Chara dug down and played an outstanding 35:46 on the ice in game seven. Dougie Hamilton, who has seen limited action in the playoffs had to play with the intensity and tenacity of a league veteran. Coach Claude Julien later commented that Hamilton’s play was “about as good as you could ask from a 19-year-old.” Lastly, Matt Bartkowski who has never played in the NHL postseason had to rise up from his time in the Providence (AHL) affiliate and play one of the better games in his hockey career.
He did just that. The defenseman had played eleven games in the regular season with Boston, played a career-high 24:51 during game seven. He handled the game like he’d been on the team for years. He showed patience and thought in his plays, and was responsible for getting the Bruins on the board first in game seven. His unassisted goal at 5:38 in the Bruins was one of those few bright moments before “The Comeback” (or “The Miracle”, or why Patrice Bergeron should have #37 retired, or just another reason to have a shameless man-crush on Bergy.) Bartkowski took the whole thing in stride though, and commented on the game rather nonchalantly afterwards. “Any way you split it, it’s playoff hockey. So it wasn’t too difficult of a transition, just had to make sure I played hard.”
“You have to find a way to give credit to those two young guys on the back end—Hamilton and obviously Bartkowski,” Coach Julien said following Game Seven. “Bartkowski was moving the puck and carrying it so well tonight, and he scored a big goal for us.”
“Bartkowski had put in a lot of work prior to Game Seven, as he was playing at a very high level in Providence and in all key situations,” said Bruins Assistant Manager Don Sweeney. “Matt deserves full credit for responding to the challenge and trusting his abilities to execute, regardless of the pressure and his inexperience in the NHL playoffs. He earned the trust of the coaches by skating with authority, making strong decisions and playing well.”
The Bruins have also called up Torey Krug from Providence to help deal with the extra workload for the d-men. He had two starts last season with Bruins. Krug has also had one start this year with Boston, playing against Montreal on March 27th. He recorded an assist in that game.
So, the Black and Gold blue line will have a little green in it tonight. From what we’ve seen of Bartkowski and Hamilton, I’m not that worried.