Bartkowski still with Bruins after another trade deadline

Bartkowski still with Bruins after another trade deadline
March 7, 2014, 12:45 pm
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BOSTON – Matt Bartkowski was saying and doing all the right things prior to the trade deadline, but it was pretty clear all the chatter about the team seeking a “top four left shot D-man” prior to the deadline was wearing on him. It would only be simple human nature to feel that way.

But the 25-year-old Bartkowski must have felt like he was sprung from jail when a deal reportedly involving him being sent to Vancouver in exchange for left shot, top four defenseman Alex Edler fell through prior to the deadline. That meant Bartkowski was going to be one of the core guys for the Bruins, and their playoff fate will at least partially ride on his performance.

It also meant that Bartkowski was involved in a deal at the trade deadline for the second year in a row that ultimately fell apart.

He certainly played like it truly mattered on Thursday night, and that will need to continue if Bartkowski wants to continue carving out a top four role for himself on the Black and Gold. He was moving the puck quickly with speed and confidence, and winning the battles in the defensive zone against a Capitals team that admittedly didn’t have all that much fight in the second half of a back-to-back game.

Whether or not the Capitals were bad, Bartkowski was extremely good.

“He was really good tonight. We having these guys come in — we’ve got eight D’s now -- and now it becomes a competition from within our dressing room, and the six best will be in the lineup. Right now, that’s what you’ve got, and I think it’s a healthy thing to have on a hockey club. That’s what we’ve created right now,” said Claude Julien. “When you talk about [Bartkowski’s] game tonight, I thought he was really good.

“He was physical, he was strong, he was moving the puck well and he skated well, so that kind of play will certainly keep him in the lineup.”

Bartkowski wasn’t Dennis Seidenberg by any means, but he was solid nonetheless in Boston’s 3-0 dominant win over the Washington Capitals while putting up a solid 21:30 of ice time, and setting up the B’s first goal in the second period that got things rolling.

Bartkowski noticed the raised hand of the ref indicating a delayed penalty in favor of the Bruins, and wheeled around the top of the point with the puck as an extra attacker hopped over the boards. Bartkowski spotted Patrice Bergeron in the left circle, and fed a perfect pass that the B’s center one-timed toward the net.

Gregory Campbell tipped the Bergeron shot past Braden Holtby, but it was an aggressive Bartkowski that created the play and collected his 13th assist of the season in the process.  

“Once I saw the delayed penalty coming I knew I could take a little more risk trying to make a play, and got it to Bergeron all set to shoot,” said Bartkowski. “It ended up working out for us.”

It’s no change from the last few months where Bartkowski has put up a plus-20 rating since Dennis Seidenberg went down with injury, and has only been a minus player in two games since the end of December.

The young defenseman knows he’s the master of his own destiny, and he's started to show much more consistency at a position where it can take a long time to fully mature. If he continues to play well then he’ll remain in the lineup, and a few stumbles here or there might open the door for new trade acquisition Andrej Meszaros to show what he’s got.

“I know when I’m playing well, and when I’m not. It’s pretty easy to tell whether you deserve to be in the lineup. For me it’s about playing as well as I can, and controlling the things that are in my control,” said Bartkowski. “If I start worrying about who the team is trading for or who I’m competing with for playing time, then I’m not really focused on the job at hand.

“That’s my top priority. As long I take care of things on my end, that’s all I really have to worry about.”

Bartkowski was rusty just like everybody else coming out of the Olympic break, but that appears to be a quickly passing phase as he gets back into the swing of things with the Black and Gold. That’s a very good things as Bartkowski will need to be at the top of his game for the rest of the season with so much of Boston’s postseason fate linked to how he fares in the second pairing.