CHICAGO Matt Bartkowski didnt have a great hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers on opening night, but the rookie defenseman didnt exactly have a terrible effort either.
The young defenseman was thrown into the Bruins lineup against the Flyers during the banner-raising evening when Adam McQuaid came down with a virus late in training camp, and finished with a largely uneventful eight plus minutes of ice time. The Bruins coaching staff essentially went with a five-man defensemen rotation for the majority of the game after the first period.
Then McQuaid returned to play the next three games before hitting his head against the boards against the Carolina Hurricanes, and now Bartkowski gets shot number two to impress the Bs brass against the Blackhawks.
The first game was alright. It was a first game. I had a couple of turnovers I could have stopped and I maybe hesitated a little bit, but it was alright on the whole, said Bartkowski matter-of-factly.
How excited is the 23-year-old to jump back into the fray with a second crack?
For sure Ive been waiting since the opener: Im eager, Im ready and Im excited so it should be fun, said Bartkowski. Watching the games Ive noticed little things like some system things like push-backs and 3-on-2 situations, and where to be on the penalty kill. There are certain things that guys do in the zone especially down low between the hash marks and stuff like that you watch everything.
Claude Julien liked the improvement he saw out of Bartkowski during training camp, and the specific gains in the strength and confidence areas. Bartkowski estimated he gained about seven pounds in the offseason, and said its not usually much of a problem keeping weight on once its been packed onto his frame.
This is a guy that we have a lot of faith will be a part of our group in the near future as a regular. Hes battling for that seventh spot, said Julien. To me hes way ahead of where he was last year and its just a matter of giving him some time on the ice with us and some confidence.
Hes a guy that had a good training camp with us. Hes become a lot stronger. Right now its about the speed of the game and moving the puck more quickly moving up the ice. Hes a good skater and all he needs to do is adapt to the speed of the game at this level.
On the flip side, Bartkowskis body of work during training camp got progressively worse as the preseason went along and he really stumbled in the last preseason game against the New York Islanders. The action and pace seemed to quicken up on Bartkowski and the decision-making suffered a little bit but now the young blueliner gets a chance to turn that trend around.