Hamilton learning as he goes through lull

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Hamilton learning as he goes through lull

BOSTON -- The Dougie Hamilton hype machine was at full power over the first handful of games this season, but the fanfare has died down a little bit for the 19-year-old over the last few weeks.

Thats because the rookie defenseman has gone scoreless over the last five games with a minus-2 rating that includes a two-game stretch on the road in Toronto and Montreal where he managed only a single shot on net. The teenager still played more than 19 minutes in four out of those five games and was among Bostons top four defensemen.

But it is also fair to say Hamilton is still learning the ropes at the NHL level and going through one of those typical rookie valley periods.

Hamiltons coach admitted as much after the Tuesday morning skate while preparing for the New York Rangers.

Dougie is going through what a first year player goes through. He was outstanding in the beginning, and hes certainly not poor now, said Claude Julien. To expect this guy to be outstanding isnt really realistic. I know he set the bar high with his early play, but hes certainly not a poor player for us.

We certainly cant complain about how hes handling himself because hes 19 years old. With the amount of ice time hes getting and how well hes playing, its pretty impressive for us anyways.

The perfect example: A couple of Hamilton mistakes in the defensive zone led to the game-tying goal in the second period of Sunday nights game in Buffalo. With the rookie at the end of a shift after the Bruins couldnt score on a power play, Hamilton found himself pinned in the defensive zone along with the rest of the unsuccessful power play unit.

Hamilton tried to slide a blind clearing attempt along the board, but it was intercepted by Drew Stafford. To make matters worse, Hamilton compounded the mistake by failing to cover the front of the net when Tyler Ennis appeared in the slot, and the skilled Buffalo forward made the Bruins pay with a goal.

It is one thing if Hamilton makes a defensive mistake while hes generating goals in the offensive end, but its quite another if his offense isnt offsetting his defense. Still its part of the learning process that the Bruins have signed up for with a 19-year-old defenseman logging heavy minutes.

The points may not be coming right now for him like they were at the beginning, but hes still a very poised player and whatever mistakes he makes well be working with him on, said Julien. Hes going through exactly what we expected him to go through being a good player thats learning along the way.

Julien indicated that his rookie defenseman is diligent about learning from the rookie mistakes that come his way, and some of the turbulent patches were fully expected when they penciled such a young defenseman in such a demanding position on a Cup-caliber team.

So the expectation is that Hamilton will use much-discussed poise and offensive skill to get back into the mix while learning some valuable lessons in first trip through the NHL circuit.

Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

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Bruins sign Kevan Miller to four-year, $10 million deal

BOSTON -- The Bruins locked up a piece to a blue line that was godawful last season in announcing they’d signed Kevan Miller to a four-year, $10 million contract.

They also retained one of their own young restricted free agents, center Seth Griffith, by reaching agreement on a one-year, two-way deal with an NHL value of $625,000 per season.

Miller, 28, played in a career-high 71 games last season -- his third with the Bruins -- and established career highs in goals (5), assists (13), points (18) and penalty minutes (53). He also posted the second-best plus/minus rating on the team (plus-15) and generally seemed to be playing his best hockey down the stretch.

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Miller was also forced into playing 19:04 of ice time per night while oftentimes serving as a top-pair D-man alongside Zdeno Chara. That resulted in a high number of mistakes and turnovers at critical times against the opposition’s best offensive players.

The rugged, hardnosed Miller obviously isn’t going to be judged solely by the numbers. He's also evaluated by the big hits, blocked shots and air of intimidation in the defensive zone. That said, a four-year contract is a bit of a head-scratcher, given that Miller wasn’t expected to command that kind of deal as an unrestricted free agent on the open market.

That four-year deal, which carries a yearly cap hit of $2.5 million, would also seem to hint at the impending exodus of Adam McQuaid or Dennis Seidenberg, or both, given the number of limited stay-at-home defensemen on the roster now making decent NHL money.  

The bottom line: Miller’s contract will be a good one if he can settle into a steady, top-four role. But it will be another overpay if he winds up being the bottom-pairing D-man many see him as at the NHL level.

Griffith had 24 goals and 53 assists for 77 points in 57 games for the Providence Bruins last season, and also had an assist in four games for Boston. He'll get another chance this year to compete for one of the winger jobs at the NHL level with plenty of competition.

Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

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Morning Skate: Following Bruins prospect DeBrusk and former All-Star Thornton

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while thoroughly enjoying “Chewbacca Mom.”

*Good piece on Bruins first round pick Jake DeBrusk, and his solid performance during Memorial Cup play.

*A couple of my friends over at NHL.com have attempted to put together a World Cup of Hockey roster for North America.

*Good piece by FOH (Friend of Haggs) Craig Custance on Jumbo Joe Thornton, and what those who know him best say about him.

*Speaking of the Sharks/Blues conference finals, Vladimir Tarasenko is scoreless through the first five games of the series. That doesn’t bode well for the Blues.

*Actor Will Arnett proves that nobody is better at predicting the outcome of Stanley Cup playoff games than him.

*Longtime Director of Player Personnel Scott Luce is out with the Florida Panthers as their restructuring continues in this spring and summer.

*Gustav Nyquist is disappointing with his scoring numbers from last season, and is looking for a bump up next year.

*For something completely different: Chewbacca Mom visited with James Corden on late night television, and the results were both funny and kind of heartwarming.