Hamill making it work for Bruins


Hamill making it work for Bruins

WILMINGTON Zach Hamill has the kind of perseverance story that people in Boston love.

The 23-year-old didnt meet immediate success when he joined the Boston Bruins organization despite being the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 Draft, but hes finally carving out a niche for himself in his fourth professional season. Hamill may never be the high-powered, Marc Savard-type center that some thought hed develop into when he was originally targeted following the disastrous Dave Lewis Error, but hes become something of a jack-of-all-trades forward.

It was slightly revealing Monday night when Hamill was in the lineup against the Montreal Canadiens ahead of 20-year-old Jordan Caron, who made the team out of training camp. Theres little denying that Hamill has seized a chance to prove himself by making plays with every opportunity hes been given in six games with the Bs this season: a pair of assists with a plus-5 rating and ice time thats climbed in each of his most recent four games with Boston.

Hamill has forced his way back onto the NHL radar after a pair of mediocre 40-something point AHL seasons.

Hes created a really good situation for himself," coach Claude Julien said. "Hes playing really good hockey every game hes been in with us this year. Its encouraging for us to see a player thats developed. You dont always have to be a great player in your first year, but if you give yourself some time and the organization has been pretty patient with him hes also put in the work to make himself a better player.

Right now hes rewarded us with some solid games. Hes created a nice situation for himself here and were just happy thats hes playing well.

Hamill is developing into the kind of useful player the Bruins can plug into any of their lines at the wing or center, and hes giving them responsible three-zone play and the ability to make plays. The extended audition in Boston will go on a little longer as Hamill was switched from emergency recall to regular recall, and has exactly five more games with Boston before he would need to clear through re-entry waivers.

So Hamill is showing the Bruins and the rest of the NHL what he could offer in a versatile role at an affordable cap hit, and his trade value is rising around the league. Its actually the perfect scenario: Hamill can forge an identity for himself as an NHL-caliber player over a month-long period and the Bruins can buy some time for banged up players like Rich Peverley to keep them fresh.

If Milan Lucic gets banged with a one-game suspension, then here comes Hamill to sponge up some shifts with David Krejci and Nathan Horton.

Hamill wont be going anywhere, of course, while the NHL holiday roster freeze is in effect from now until Dec. 27 a day before the Bruins hit the road to tangle with the Phoenix Coyotes on their first West Coast trip of the season. He picked up power play time along with the shifts alongside Krejci and Horton during the Bs win over the Habs on Monday night a pair of moves by the coaching staff that demonstrate the kind of confidence building in the young player.

In words that will be music to Juliens ears, however, Hamill was kicking himself after the Montreal for letting up a goal while he on the ice for the first time in 10 NHL games with the Bruins.

Its what I really wanted to do -- gain the trust of the coaching staff," Hamill said. "With Looch out it was a chance for me to step up there. I just want to play my game. I came up here and I just wanted to play well in all three zones and I think thats what Ive done. Its something Ive really always taken pride in, not getting scored on. That goal was actually the first against me since Ive been up here. So thats frustrating a little bit.

He now has an assist and a plus-2 in four games during his most recent promotion, and it appears the Bruins have unlocked some of that potential. Hamills increased physical strength and maturity have aided him in his development, but his ability to carry out different tasks on the ice has been at the top of the list.

Hamill can play an energy role or set up natural born scorers with creative playmaking, he can kill penalties with speed and craftiness and the power play off the half-wall seems like a natural fit for someone with his passing abilities.

The Bruins wisely moved him to the wing to start this season in the first of a series of circumstances that have opened things up for Hamill. There was too much quality and too much depth at the NHL level for Hamill to fight through if he was working strictly at center. But his willingness to jump around to different roles and positions speaks volumes about the hunger to earn himself a permanent job in The Show.

Hamill has said in several instances that he wants to remain in Boston even if that means routinely battling for a roster spot or a place in the lineup, but it may get to the point where his value is greater elsewhere in a league where concussions and injuries are opening up opportunities everywhere.

With a high ceiling and a current low price tag entering restricted free agency following the season, Hamill looks like hes playing himself into an NHL role here or elsewhere. The biggest question now is, which NHL team has been watching? Who is going to call on Hamill before hes exposed to re-entry waivers?

Hamill made it through re-entry waivers at the end of training camp this fall, but that doesnt seem like it will be the case again this time around after showing signs that hes beginning to get it before it was too late.

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

Amid signs his job might be in trouble, Julien says: 'I'm not quitting on this team'

BRIGHTON, Mass – Roughly 12 hours after embattled Bruins coach Claude Julien bristled at a question about his job security and labeled it “shock journalism” in the heat of the moment after a tight loss to the Blackhawks, the B’s bench boss delivered a classy, heartfelt response to the same question.

Julien was asked about it in French by a reporter from the Montreal Gazette, but answered in English because of the “loyalty he feels to the people in Boston.”

In essence, Julien basically said he should be relieved of his duties if he’s deemed to be behind what ails the Black and Gold, but he’s going to keep working to fix things until that day comes.

It was exactly the kind of response you would expect from a coach who's taken the B’s to the mountaintop in his 10 years running the team and will always be respected and loved in Boston long after his coaching days are done.

“How do I deal with all of the rumors and all that is going on? I didn’t feel like [Friday night] was the appropriate time for me to answer that after a game where you’re emotions are pretty high. I wasn’t getting into that, but to be honest with you my job is to coach the hockey club,” said Julien. “Am I worried about my job? No, I’m not. Because it’s not my job to worry about it. My job is to fix things, and my job is to coach this team and do everything I can. If I become one of the reasons that we’re not doing well, then management has to make that decision.

“It’s not my decision to make. I’m not quitting on this team. I’m not quitting on anybody. I’m not quitting on management. I’m ready and willing to go through the hard times, and I said that at the end of last year. If it’s deemed my fault then I shouldn’t be here, and that’s all I can say.”

While the Bruins roster is clearly less than perfect and has a larger dose of youthful players than in years past, Julien also freely admitted that they should be held to a higher standard after proving many nights that they should be a playoff team. That’s the mandate from Bruins ownership and that’s the challenge that Julien has willingly accepted.

It’s also the challenge that’s falling a bit short now as they’ve lost three crushing games in a row and have fallen behind the Ottawa Senators in the playoff standings, with Toronto also right behind them holding six games in hand.

“If we’re going with what we said we were going with and there’s going to be some growing pains along the way, so be it,” said Julien. “I think we put ourselves in a position earlier in the year where we could all of a sudden believe that we’re a playoff team...absolutely. I still think we’re a playoff team. Whether we can do it or not we’ll find out at the end of the year, but my job is to do everything I can to get us into the playoffs and that’s what I’m going to do.

“As far as the rumors are concerned, they’re out there and I know that. But I don’t worry about it because worrying is wasting a lot of my time. And my time is spent trying to fix things here.”

Julien and the Bruins are headed to Pittsburgh for a Sunday matinee against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and will have two games against the red-hot Pens headed into an All-Star break weekend that must feel like a well-earned oasis for Julien at this point in the season. 

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

Haggerty: Good, but not good enough, again the story for Bruins

BOSTON – The all-important results continue to elude the Bruins at the time when they need them most.

The Black and Gold lost their third game in a row, 1-0, to the Chicago Blackhawks at TD Garden Friday night when they allowed the game-winning goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in regulation. It was a simple defensive breakdown and some great tic-tac-toe passing with Marian Hossa finishing things off, but it also felt like a game where the Blackhawks coasted against a wounded Bruins team for 58 minutes before turning it on when it was winning time.

The winning goal was a cross-ice pass from Tanner Kero to Hossa, with the puck sliding right between the legs of Adam McQuaid in the slot, and Hossa picking a corner while giving Tuukka Rask zero time to react side to side.

“We had a game plan in place and our guys executed well, they were ready to play,” said Claude Julien. “One little mistake and it’s in our net, and you lose yourself a pretty important hockey game.”

So, now the Bruins have taken only one point in their past three games, have dropped behind the Ottawa Senators in the Atlantic Division standings and continue to skate around like they’re wearing the weight of the entire organization on their shoulders.

“At the end of the night it is another loss and that’s the biggest thing. Did your team play fairly well? I think so. I think we competed hard, but then again you’re dealing with some growing pains. We had an icing late in the game so that’s not necessary, but the winning goal that goes through three of our guys and in our net with a minute-and- a-half left,” said Julien. “We have to stand there again, and take the responsibility for our own actions. It’s unfortunate because that minute-and-a-half that was left in the game kind of tarnished everything we had done for the first 58 minutes.

“I thought we played pretty well against a good team. We had contained the guys that we needed to contain. We didn’t score any goals – I don’t think we did a good enough job there - we had some chances but again you got to find ways to score goals. That’s where we are at.”

Clearly, the Bruins didn’t give up a ton defensively and Rask had been solid for the first two-plus periods, but there was also a sense Chicago didn’t bring its best game either when Boston outshot the Blackhawks 17-6 in the opening period. It was also clear that, aside from a couple of good, early chances from Tim Schaller and Brad Marchand, along with a Joe Morrow breakaway chance, the Bruins offense wasn’t doing enough work to get closer to the Chicago net for any sustained pressure.

So, instead of a solid result with dark clouds swirling over Causeway Street that a big change is needed to jolt a stagnant team, the Bruins hang up another loss where they outshot their opponent and end up with nothing to show for it.

These are the kinds of losses that test morale and togetherness and could either be taken as a sign of things tightening up for the Bruins or of things continuing to spiral away from a team that just needs wins at this point.

“I’m sure everybody’s feeling down right now because we lost, but you can’t start pouting too much. You’ve got to move on,” said Rask, who allowed one goal on 22 shots in the loss. “[There’s a] big game coming up Sunday, and next week, so it’s a loss and we have to move on. [We have to] get ready for the next one. I’m sure guys are pissed today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Tomorrow is a new day for everybody on the Black and Gold including Julien, who is scheduled to still run practice on Saturday as the B’s bench boss before speaking to the media prior to the team leaving for Pittsburgh. So, it’s business as usual after another loss on Friday night in a classic Original Six matchup that’s clearly most of the luster from where it was at four years ago, but one can only sit and wonder how much longer business as usual cuts it for a hockey club that continues to flounder.