Dougie Hamilton, Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug. Three names most Bruins fans probably did not expect to hear much about coming into the 2013 NHL playoffs. The three rookie defenseman, while stacked with potential as future blue liners in the Bruins' lineup, figured to play minimal roles in whatever cup run the Boston Bruins were going to make. However, by the end of a strenuous 7-game opening series with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the B’s found themselves with a defensive corps depleted by injuries.
With veterans Wade Redden and Andrew Ference unavailable due to injury, Claude Julien was forced to insert Hamilton and Bartkowski into the lineup in a critical game 7. After Dennis Seidenberg suffered an apparent leg injury just 37 seconds in, Julien had to then entrust increased minutes to the two rookies. Bartkowski played an impressive 24:51 and registered his first career goal to kick off the scoring. He did a solid job filling in for Seidenberg, playing strong on the penalty kill and bringing a physical presence all while showing poise carrying and breaking the puck out. Hamilton had a solid game as well, moving up to play a number of shifts alongside Zdeno Chara, registering 21:08.
With Seidenberg out, Claude had to turn to yet another rookie to step in and play game 1 of the conference semi finals against the Rangers Thursday night. Torey Krug, the undrafted free agent out of Michigan State University whom Boston signed at the end of the 2011-2012 season, got the nod to play alongside Adam McQuaid on Boston’s third pairing. All Krug did was log a solid 16:11 of ice time, play on the second powerplay unit, and score the game-tying second goal for the B’s in the third period, his first career NHL goal. Hamilton had another steady game, again paired mostly with Zdeno Chara, logging 20:45 of ice time and assisting on Krug’s powerplay strike. Bartkowski proved to be a workhorse for Boston in game 1, playing 26:42 of ice time, third only behind Chara and Johnny Boychuk, while playing very physical against a large Rangers roster.
The injuries to the Bruins’ veteran defensemen were a well-documented concern coming into game 1 of this series. None of them seemed to be the least bit phased by being thrown into a pressure situation, however, looking calm and comfortable throughout as Boston was able to jump out to an important 1-0 series lead.
You could say the future of the Bruins’ d-corps looks very bright, but the three youngsters are proving that there’s no time like the present.