Due to Andrew Ference’s one-game suspension, rookie Dougie Hamilton will likely get his feet wet in his first career playoff game Saturday night at the TD Garden when the Bruins and Maple Leafs meet in Game 2.
Hamilton, who earned the “7th Player Award” after tallying five goals and 11 assists in 42 games, was a healthy scratch in Game 1 on Wednesday night. The Bruins are taking the same approach as they did to Tyler Seguin during their Stanley Cup run in 2011.
The postseason is much different from the regular season and Hamilton is about to find out tonight when he will pair with Game 1 hero Wade Redden as the B’s bottom defensive pair.
Hamilton struggled down the stretch in the regular season where he was scratched six times in the team’s final nine contests. He tallied just two points in the final 10 games. And while head coach Claude Julien made the right decision having Hamilton watch from the press box, the first-year defenseman believes he has made strides all season long.
“I think I’m a lot better as a player and I’ve gotten a lot stronger over the course of the 42 games,” said the 19-year-old rookie. “I’ve learned the system and the NHL game. Obviously the game is going to be a lot more intense in the playoffs as everybody can see, but I’m looking forward to that.”
Hamilton is in a great situation being inside the B’s locker room where he can talk to and learn on the ice from Zdeno Chara. The Bruins captain mentored Hamilton all season long and it will be no different tonight assuming he takes the ice for his first career playoff contest.
Julien would not tip his hand on indicating whether or not Hamilton will get the nod, but all signs point that way.
“We’ve still got a lot of D’s available and a day to make the decision,” Julien said. “We mix and match a lot of the time, so it’s not much of an issue. There were a lot of players to look at and Dougie had played a lot of hockey.”
Julien does not care who steps in for Ference because he knows his players are ready for the challenge.
“I think he’s (Hamilton) played enough hockey to understand what’s at stake,” he said. “And we have no problem whether it’s him, Aaron Johnson or Matt Bartkowski in Providence.”
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