Hamilton adjusting to NHL on and off the ice


Hamilton adjusting to NHL on and off the ice

The season-long education of 19-year-old Dougie Hamilton continues to roll on in Boston.

While the rookie blueliner isnt admitting that hes slammed into any kind of rookie roadblock in a first NHL campaign sure to have both bumps and triumphs, Hamilton did admit there have been some significant adjustments.

Whats been the biggest change for Hamilton in the NHL?

Its been positioning and coverage in the defensive zone at the pro level. In his junior days with the Niagara IceDogs things were a little more chaotic in the defensive zone. There was less structure and strict positioning at the junior hockey level, so obviously there was less required of a guy like Hamilton. Hes fallen back into OHL mode at times this season for the Bruins, and left the net vacant to chase after puck carriers leading to goals against.

Thats something the coaching staff has been in constant discussions with the rookie about through this season consistent with a young player going through the NHL for the first time.

One of the mottos I use with our system all the time is that they will come to you, said Claude Julien. You dont have to run all over the place. If youre playing your position then eventually somebody will come into that area. There are times when hes tried a little too hard and found himself out of position. Thats where he gets into trouble.

I told him once he gets used to it and it becomes second nature it will go a lot easier on his game. You can make less of an effort, but be in the right position and get more out of it. Then you can be fresher when you really need to push on the attack. Hes a smart individual and hes catching on quickly.

There are specific places where a defenseman needs to be in Claude Juliens system. Its usually camped directly in front of the net protecting the Bs goaltender and forming a human wall between the shooter and the net.

Learning the system has been different. Its different in the NHL than it is in the OHL, said Hamilton. Its more controlled in your own end here. I think Ive done a pretty good job with it, but talking to assistant coach Doug Houda has helped me out a lot. Im still trying to learn some things.

In the OHL its a little all over the place and sometimes guys are out of position more doing individual stuff. Here its more team stuff where you need to be in the right place and always be an option. I definitely like it better here.

Though he hasnt registered a point in the last six games and is a minus-3 over that time, the defenseman said hes playing exactly the same game. Hamilton is trying to make that smart first pass to jump-start the transition game and create rebounds with his quick punch shot from the point. The points just havent been pouring in like they were in the first handful of games, but Hamilton didnt sounds like he was panicked.

I still feel like Im playing the exact same way as I did earlier this season, said Hamilton, who has four assists and is a minus-3 in 11 games while averaging 18:53 of ice time. Whether the passes arent working or pucks arent getting on net for rebounds so you can get assists there, Im still playing the same way. Im pretty happy with how Im doing.

I thought my last game against the Rangers was good. Obviously there were a couple of shifts where you wish you had done things a little differently, but something like that happens in every game. I dont think Im in a valley now and I dont think I was at a peak before. I think Im just playing the same way I have all year. Im just trying to improve on my mistakes and thats what you would expect from a 19-year-old.

Its not all on the ice for Hamilton as a rookie in the NHL, however.

One area where Hamilton is enjoying a smooth transition is in his living arrangements after moving into Adam McQuaids condo in Charlestown at the start of the season. The 19-year-old said he spends a fair amount of time sitting on the couch watching television when hes not on the road or at the arena, but he still appreciates the 26-year-old McQuaid showing him the ropes of being a pro hockey player.

There has been a lot of TV and couch time at home which I like a lot, said Hamilton. Its great to have him around, and hes helped me with cooking, how to use the dishwasher and how to do laundry. He did everything as far as cooking for the first few days, but Ive been trying to get in there a little more. Its been really good so far.

Coming into the season I wasnt sure what to expect: where I was going to live or how I was going to be able to do it without my parents. So far Im enjoying it and havent had any problems.

Its been just as rewarding for McQuaid, who welcomed Hamilton to his single guys pad by cooking him his rugged defenseman specialty: spiced chicken and mashed potatoes. The Bruins defenseman said watching Hamilton go through his first NHL experience almost makes him feel like hes a rookie doing it all over again as well.

Its fun to have him around. He doesnt really need me to show him a whole lot, but Im there if he has any questions. Our personalities are pretty similar too, so we get along well, said McQuaid. Ive been saying that maybe I can show him a few things off the ice, and he can show me a few things on the ice.

For him at his age just playing at this level and everything that goes along with that while trying to live on your ownit can be a lot. I just try to show him the odd thing here or there. When everything is new to someone and youre going through it with them, its almost like youre doing it over again yourself. Its not the exact same thing, but its like when people have kids: they get to go through the excitement through their kids of the things that they loved as kids.

Watching a teenager going through the NHL experience for the first time isnt just energizing and refreshing for McQuaid, however. It brings out a young enthusiasm in the entire Bs hockey club, and thats above and beyond the talent that the 19-year-old has already exhibited in his first month of NHL action.

The Dougie effect has been a very good thing for the Bruins even as its a work in progress.

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

Haggerty: Bruins continue to stumble against Canadiens at home

BOSTON -- One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Much like Charlie Brown was never going to actually kick the football before Lucy pulled it away, it feels like the Bruins are never again going to beat the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden. They failed again Saturday night, never holding a lead at any point as they dropped their ninth straight home game to the Habs, 4-2.

Bruins-Canadiens games in Boston have become the hockey version of 'Groundhog Day', as the same patterns emerge over and over again: Montreal's speed forces the Bruins into mistakes with the puck; Habs players draw the B’s into taking bad penalties; Carey Price dominates in goal. It's been that way ever since the last Bruin victory over Montreal at the Garden, on Jan. 12, 2012. To put it perspective, Tim Thomas and Tyler Seguin were still Bruins back then.

Saturday night's loss, though, had a little added twist: The B's second-period woes, such a problem last year, reared its ugly head again.

“[The second period was] terrible, and that’s where it really hurt us," said Claude Julien. "I thought we played well (in the first period) . . . But the second period came back to haunt us. We were flat coming out. We didn’t make good outlet passes, and we spent way too much time in our own end, and because of that, it gave them some momentum. And by the end of it, we cheated ourselves a little bit, and pucks ended up in the back of our net . . .

"[When] you give up four goals to Montreal, and you have Price at the other end, it’s pretty hard to beat that team. So we needed to be better . . . [We] shot ourselves in the foot with some real poor mistakes, and we can’t afford to do that against the Montreal Canadiens."

The Bruins were essentially done for after a couple of very typical Boston-Montreal plays went against them in the middle 20 minutes.

The first was a defensive coverage breakdown in the D-zone that allowed both Max Pacioretty and Brendan Gallagher to operate with time and space. Five B’s players simply watched as Gallagher smoked a one-timer from the outside of the left circle that eluded Anton Khudobin.

Then, later in the period, John-Michael Liles misread a play where he pinched deep in the offensive zone and couldn’t control the puck. As a result, Alexander Radulov worked a 2-on-1 with Phillip Danault to skilled perfection on a typical Habs transition play.

"I think our second period has got to be better overall," said Patrice Bergeron. "We talked about them having a good forecheck . . . [but] we didn’t make the easy plays too many times. When you do that, it creates turnovers and you spend more time in your zone than you’d like to."

From there, it was just more of the same. Playing with the lead, Montreal was able to neutralize Bergeron and Brad Marchand; Bergeron never got a shot on goal. Price came up big when he had to, shutting down a couple of Ryan Spooner chances.

And Bruin weaknesses were exposed, things Julien and the coaching staff may have to address. It looks like it’s time to move on from the Joe Morrow/Torey Krug defense pairing; it's simply not working. (Krug, in particular, was a minus-3 and made mistakes all over the ice.) They also may need to switch things up with the forwards, as they're getting zippo offensively from their second and third lines.

To their credit, the Bruins never packed it in. They hung in and made plays in the third period to keep the game close, right up to the 6-on-3 advantage they had at the end. But there are no consolation prizes or moral victories in the Boston-Montreal rivalry, especially when the Habs have made it so one-sided.

To be a true rivalry, you need equal rivals. And the Bruins, especially at home, aren’t holding up their end of the bargain.

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

Bruins need to 'find a way to start playing with a lead'

BOSTON -- There’s only so long that a team can hope to thrive, or even survive, in the NHL if they’re constantly chasing the game on the scoreboard, and chasing the puck after digging themselves a hole. The Bruins have been that team in the first couple of weeks during the regular season, and made it five times in five games that they’ve given up the game’s first goal in an eventual 4-2 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at TD Garden.

It’s a pattern that is long past getting old to Bruins head coach Claude Julien, who can’t seem to play the front-runner this season despite three comebacks that have allowed for a 3-2-0 record overall this season.

“I hope it’s not a habit. It’s certainly not what we’re looking for, but there’s no doubt. I think it’s pretty obvious that with the amount of games we’ve played, five games, we haven’t scored first,” said Julien. “We talked about that this morning, trying to get that first goal, and it hasn’t happened yet.”

The start to the game wasn’t really the problem on Saturday night as it’s been a couple of times this season. Instead the Bruins enjoyed a handful of quality scoring chances in the opening 20 minutes against the Habs, but couldn’t come through and finish off those plays when it might have meant an early lead.

Instead it lead to what Julien termed a “terrible” second period that was flat, full of mistakes and ended with the B’s trailing Montreal by a couple of goals. The Bruins scratched and clawed their way to making it a one-goal game in the third period, but that was as close as the Black and Gold would get in losing their ninth straight home game to the arch-rival Canadiens.

“It’s kind of been a story about how things are going for us this far, we’ve got to find a way to start playing with a lead. If you don’t capitalize on your chances, you see what happens when you come out [flat] in the second period,” said Torey Krug, who finished a game-worst minus-3 in the loss for the Bruins. “We had another poor second period and you know it’s kind of… you got to make sure that we put our hand on that and it doesn’t become a thing for the team this year. You see that when you don’t capitalize on chances early, that’s what’s going to happen.”

It’s been a positive development that the Bruins have shown the willingness and backbone to fight back into games after early deficits, and they showed that quality once again on Saturday night by scoring a couple of goals in the third period to keep things close. But the Bruins would be best served if they can start lighting the lamp a little earlier in these games, and see how the other half lives by playing with a comfortable lead every once in a while.