Bartkowski has plenty to prove to the Bruins

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Bartkowski has plenty to prove to the Bruins

NORTH SMITHFIELD, R.I. Matt Bartkowski knows that he hasnt been able to put his best foot forward at the NHL level.

The Bruins defensemen prospect has made it through the entirety of training camp with Boston in each of the last two years, and actually started the year with the Bs last season when Adam McQuaid fell ill before the season began. Hes played in nine scoreless games with Boston over the last two seasons with a minus-4 rating and four penalty minutes, and has suffered breakdowns in his own zone against bigger, stronger, faster NHL attackers.

The key for him is to improve his skating speed, pay attention to detail in his own end, and factor in the rapid decision-making necessary at the NHL level.

"I just need to prepare myself for what they want me to do and how they want me to play," Bartkowski said. "My goal is to win a spot in Boston when the lockout is over. My stints in Boston have all been short and I havent played as well as I think I can play. I know that.

"I want to show the coaches and certain people that I can play well defensively, and once I do that I think everything else will take care of itself. If I can play hard in the D zone, not get beat, and be hard to play against then Im playing my game."

The 24-year-old also suffered a concussion last season while still managing to put up 22 points in 50 games for Providence, and improving his plusminus rating from minus-7 in his rookie season to even last year. Thats exactly the kind of on-ice performance that Bartkowski is looking to show the watchful eyes of the Bs front office and coaching staff while theyre watching P-Bruins camp.

The Bs staff instructed Bartkowski to watch tapes of defenseman Dennis Seidenberg over the summer and attempt to absorb things from his game particularly in the defensive end while working himself into a capable sixthseventh defenseman. Thats the plan to start, anyway.

The Bs staff told me to watch certain D in Boston and watch how they play not necessarily to emulate them but to learn from them, said Bartkowski. It was Seidenberg mainly. Id love to be as good as him someday, and they think I could develop into that kind of player. As long as I keep progressing and watch him play with his determination, hes solid on every play.

Theres also the issue of greater competition. Bartkowski has been one of the more highly regarded defensemen prospects over each of the last two seasons, but now hes watching as other young defensemen like Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug are rising through the Black and Gold organization.

Bartkowski also knows hes in the last year of his entry-level deal with the Bruins. So its time to show improvement in his game and that hes ready to take the next step after proving hes a capable AHL defenseman.

Its absolutely competition. Hamilton and Krug are really good players and really good defensemen. We have different skill sets and play a different kind of game, so its not the same in that sense, Bartkowski said. But as a sixseven all the way up to whatever its definitely competition. It makes me want to elevate my game and play better.

Bartkowski expects to be invited to the shortened NHL training camp once the lockout is finally over, and that will give him a chance to show he wont become the forgotten man along the Bs blue line anytime soon.

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Monday, Jan. 15: Matthews jersey sells for big money

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wondering what Claude Julien would do if one of the Bruins players was running Facebook Live during his postgame comments.
 
*Auston Matthews is obviously making a huge impression in Toronto as his Centennial Classic jersey sold for over $11,000 at a charity auction.
 
*Clark Booth knows it’s time to talk about the NFL, but instead he wants to talk about Milt Schmidt. I agree with Clark.

*Sabres goalie Robin Lehner says that his Buffalo teammates need to start doing their job as the season circles down the drain.

*Pierre McGuire talks with TSN sports radio about the Ottawa Senators, and the tough road trip coming up for them.
 
*PHT writer Cam Tucker has more bad news for the Tampa Bay Lightning as Ryan Callahan is going to be out for another four weeks with a lower body injury.
 
*As the Detroit Red Wings continue to round up the bottom in the Atlantic Division, Thomas Vanek may become trade bait.
 
*Peter Budaj is giving the Kings the saves that they need with Jonathan Quick out long term with injury.
 
*For something completely different: Tom E. Curran points out some togetherness issues with the Pittsburgh Steelers based on Antonio Brown’s Facebook post.
 

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

B's determined to 'keep it going' during good offensive run

BRIGHTON, Mass. -- The Bruins are going through a nice, little bountiful stretch of offense right now after a half-season of struggle.

The Bruins are averaging more than three goals per game in their last 12 contests, and have scored a whopping 22 goals in their last six games including dropping six scores on the Flyers Saturday afternoon at TD Garden. Combine that with the 7-for-25 performance on the power play during the month of January, and things are finally starting to catch up with a Bruins team that was all shoot/no score for months of frustrating hockey this season.

“If you want sustained success then you have to be good defensively, but you also have to score some goals. That’s definitely part of it and we have to keep it going,” said Patrice Bergeron, who has four goals and eight points in his last nine games after struggling out of the starting gate. “You’re not going to get rewarded every night like we did [against the Flyers], but you have to find that consistency where you’re close to having that every night.”

One thing nobody should expect out of the B’s, however, is to get outside of what they do well now that they’ve started slapping some numbers up on the board. Instead the Bruins are intent on their bedrock of disciplined defense and sensational goaltending with the added offense just making it much tougher to beat them these days.

“I don’t know if we can stand here and say we’re going to sustain that we’re scoring lots of goals. I think what we need to sustain here is winning more games than we lose,” said Claude Julien. “That’s what we’ve got to sustain. Whether it’s a 1-0 or 2-1 game, or it’s a 5-2 or 5-3 game it doesn’t really matter. It’s about winning hockey games much more than it’s about how much you scored, and how much you don’t score.

“Overall when I look at the scoring chances we’re giving up per game, that doesn’t seem to have changed. Goals allowed may have changed a little bit lately, but overall I think we’ve been very steady in that area [of defense].”

So now the Bruins will again be looking for that ideal balance of offense/defense when they take the ice against the Islanders on Monday afternoon for their second straight matinee at TD Garden.