UNIONDALE -- The Bruins might have panicked just a little bit after the loss of Dennis Seidenberg. They certainly scrambled to adjust to life without him in the first few weeks following his knee injury.
Calls came for a quick impulse trade to find a veteran replacement for the defensive warrior. Some wondered whether the Bruins were capable of surviving without such an underrated blueliner.
A little time has now passed since Seidenberg blew out his right knee on Dec. 27, and things have settled down nicely for the Black and Gold.
A lot of that has to do with the play of Matt Bartkowski, who has averaged nearly 21 minutes a game in the last four contests when the Bruins have taken seven out of eight points against the Stars, Blackhawks, Kings and Flyers. The 25-year-old is a different player than Seidenberg; he’s faster moving the puck with his skating speed, and he's a little more adept at generating offense.
“Bart has had an opportunity because of the Seidenberg injury, and it’s taken him a little while because it is an adjustment, not only with ice time, but who you’re playing against. It just takes some time,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien. “But I think he’s made that adjustment lately. He’s been playing well, and that’s a good thing for our hockey club.
“You’re looking at a guy that was asked to fill some pretty big shoes in Bartkowski’s case. The more we move forward, the more we see he’s getting comfortable. That transition is being made smoothly. He is not Seidenberg by any means. They play a different kind of game. But in the role he’s playing, I think he’s doing a great job at it.”
The play of Bartkowski has helped stabilize things defensively, and it’s clear the Bruins are now playing better at both ends of the rink while in sprint mode with only six games remaining until the Olympic break. That has quelled some of the trade talks with the Bruins seeking a left shot defenseman, and emboldened B’s management to feel they could have all the necessary answers within their current group.
That’s also a big reason why the Bruins have decided Bartkowski isn’t going to be a player they’re willing to move at the trade deadline.
None of these things will stop Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli from looking for defensemen help, but as a source told CSNNE.com “the pickings are slim” among veteran defensemen names currently on the trade market. That may change between now and the March 5 trade deadline, and it would be interesting to see what names might become available if the Bruins enter some prospects like Niklas Svedberg or Ryan Spooner into their trade discussions.
But right now the Bruins are watching their top-six defensemen gel into a stable, productive six-man unit against some stiff competition. Bartkowski has been a big part of that.