The kids have had some big shoes to fill on the Bruins blue-line, but they’re doing alright for themselves.
When Peter Chiarelli didn’t bring back Andrew Ference for the 2013-14 season, the workload for the young Bruins defensemen got a little higher. But it also gave an opportunity for Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski to crack the top-6 on a full-time basis.
That workload got a little higher, again, when Dennis Seidenberg suffered a torn ACL and Adam McQuaid spent several stints on injured reserve. It gave Hamilton, Krug and Bartkowski another opportunity to become mainstays on the B’s defense. It also gave Kevan Miller, who started the season in Providence, a chance to stay with the big club.
Then the trade deadline came where Chiarelli went out and acquired ex-Flyers defenseman Andrej Meszaros and claimed former Oiler Corey Potter off waivers. Meszaros earned himself some time late in the regular season and skated in the first two games of the postseason. While Potter also suited up in Game 1, he is used as the team’s eighth defenseman and will be spending most of his time watching playoff hockey from Level 9.
The reason? The play of Hamilton, Krug, Bartkowski and Miller continues to grow. They all played valuable minutes in round one against the Detroit Red Wings. As good as they’ve been, they’ll need to be even better in round two against the hated Montreal Canadiens.
“That’s something Peter was trying to get and he definitely did that with some great young talent,” forward Patrice Bergeron said after the Bruins’ 4-2 series clinching win over the Red Wings on Saturday. “It’s great to have them on our team.”
Still, this isn’t new territory for the Black and Gold. Just look at last year’s postseason where Ference, Seidenberg and Wade Redden went down in the first two rounds. Insert Dougie, Krug and Bartkowski, all of whom played significant experience in the playoffs.
This year Miller is playing in his first postseason, but with his big hits and timely D he is looking more like a veteran. Krug’s offensive poise took another step forward against the Red Wings, while Bartkowski logged solid minutes with partner Johnny Boychuk and Hamilton made a smooth transition from a young-20 year old playing in his second postseason to having a coming out party.
As the team captain, Zdeno Chara has a massive responsibility on the ice. The young defenseman want to learn from him and Chara wants to give them advice, while also improving his own game.
It’s a win-win situation, and it’s a small, but important, reason why Chara was named a Norris Trophy finalist again on Monday.
“It’s a fine balance that you do have to take some responsibility and take a little bit upon your shoulders, but at the same time you don’t want to do too much that it’s actually costing your game,” Chara said. “You still want to be helping younger guys getting their development – or speed up their development from the experiences they might not have yet – but at the same time, you don’t want to be doing a job for them and then not doing your job.
“They do a really good job. All the young guys we have, they really made huge strides from the time they got here, or they got called up or trades. They made really smooth adjustments.”