When it was confirmed that the Bruins would be without the services of defensemen Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden for Game 1 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinals series with the New York Rangers, Bruins fans started to panic about the Bruins defense, but thanks to three young blue-liners, Bruins fans can breathe again.
As was the case in the Bruins overtime Game 7 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs, 24-year-old Matt Bartkowski and 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton were in the lineup to replace Ference and Redden. A first period Game 7 injury to Seidenberg forced the Bruins to call up 22-year-old Torey Krug from the Providence Bruins and insert him into the lineup for Game 1, a move that paid off very well for the Bruins.
With the Bruins down 2-1 after the Rangers scored with seconds remaining in the second, followed by another score just seconds into the third, Krug came up big by scoring the first National Hockey League goal of his young career and tying things up at two. Krug’s goal was nice to see and a game changer for sure.
“It was huge, there’s no doubt” said head coach Claude Julien.
“Like I said, for his first goal he couldn’t have asked for better timing. Again, it just shows how good a player he is.”
To go along with Krug’s key goal the Bruins once again got some stellar defense from Bartkowski, and after a shaky performance in Game 7, Hamilton bounced back with one of his better games this season as Hamilton was the one to find Krug’s tape and help set up the power play tally.
“I don’t know if he hesitated” said Krug. “I think that was his game plan the whole time, kind of bring the guy out to him and then he froze him and then he slid it over to me so it was an unbelievable play by him.”
Hamilton, who was paired up with Zdeno Chara for most of the evening saw 20:45 of ice time and did a great job helping Chara shutdown the Rangers top line.
“Playoffs is another step and he’s taken that step extremely well, to me. Last night, again, making good decisions, he played with Zee [Zdeno Chara] sometimes against their top line” added Julien during Friday’s media availability. “To be able to be put out there against the other team’s top line shows that we do have confidence in him.”
Throughout the course of the past three seasons, Bartkowski has seen his share of time with the Bruins, but certainly this is the best the Bruins have seen Bartkowski play, the Pittsburgh native credits that to confidence.
“Yeah, absolutely the more minutes I play the more shifts I get, the more confidence and just play on instinct” said Bartkowski.
These three young defensemen bring a different look then what is normally seen from the Bruins blue-liners. With guys like Chara, Seidenberg and Johnny Boychuk you’ll often see a physical in-your-face style of play, and that works out perfectly for those guys.
With Hamilton, Krug and Bartkowski you’ll get more of an offensive style as the three young blue-liners are excellent at moving the puck in transition and using their speed to make plays happen.
Yeah, I thought last night, our transition game, I think they took the ice well, both [Torey] Krug and [Matt] Bartkowski, who we’ve seen a lot. Dougie’s [Hamilton] following in the footsteps, as well” said Julien.” But there’s no doubt our transition game, last night, was good. Whether it was because of them or whether it was because of our game, but they did exactly what they had to do.”
It’s not known which, if any, defensemen will return in Game 2 for the Bruins on Sunday, but with these three young Bruins defensemen the Bruins are just fine the way they are.