Hamilton sticking around with Bruins; stars in victory

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Hamilton sticking around with Bruins; stars in victory

RALEIGH, NC Apparently it isnt a Bruins game these days without a big play from 19-year-old rookie Dougie Hamilton.

Once again it wasnt a perfect performance as his natural offensive instincts took him way away from his normal position in a key sequence at the end of the second period. Hamilton hung Chris Kelly out to dry on the Eric Staal goal that tied things at 3-3 when the Bruins center was forced to break the puck out of the defensive zone on his own.

But Hamilton made up for it by making a heady, slick cross-ice pass in the final two minutes of regulation that set up a David Krejci one-timer, and powered the Bruins to an entertaining 5-3 victory at PNC Arena.

Hamilton faked with a big shot from the right circle once he corralled wildly bouncing puck, and was on the money with a tape-to-tape pass.

I think were going to see a lot of this stuff. The thing that really impressed me about him when I watched him in junior this year was his vision, said Julien of the trip the Bs coach and GM Peter Chiarelli took to watch the young defenseman at Niagara during the lockout. He sees the ice so well and finds the open seams. You talk about the game-winning goal, but there was a few times he found an open guy right up the seam and got us going on our way in transition.

Thats what weve been talking about for a long time. We wanted some guys that can move the puck. Were big and now we find some defenseman that can move the puck extremely well. He certainly fits that mold.

Hamilton now has assists in three straight games for the Bruins, and has posted four assists in five games while keeping close pace with fellow rookie blueliner Justin Schultz (2 goals, 3 assists in four games) of the Edmonton Oilers. Bostons rookie blueliner finished with four shots on net and a pair of hits in 19:19 of ice time. That all of this happened on the day when the Bruins made it official Hamilton wont be going back to junior hockey was all the sweeter for the first year player.

The Bruins had until Hamilton suits up for his sixth game to make a decision on whether or not to return him to the OHLs Niagara IceDogs, but the understanding was that he was going to stick with the NHL club unless he fell flat on his face. It became the biggest no-brainer in the history of earth to keep the teenaged skater after watching him excel in some pretty big spots.

Hamilton has done the exact opposite of struggling while becoming one of the most impactful rookies in the league over the seasons first two weeks.

He has a lot of poise and he plays a very mature game, said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. Im sure inside he felt relieved, but based on how Ive seen him play, it wouldnt surprise me if his play doesnt go one way or the other now that he knows hes staying because hes a real poised and mature player.

Chiarelli said he told him a week ago that things were looking good for him to stick with the Bruins in these terms: Look, things are going well, so dont screw it up.

Hamilton has proceeded to not screw up in the best way possible and even more impressively didnt relax or ease up after learning of his favorable NHL fate. Now he'll move in and live with defenseman Adam McQuaid for the rest of this season as he continues to assimilate into the NHL lifestyle as a wide-eyed youngster.

Its just overall excitement, said Hamilton. Its been my dream ever since I was a little kid to play in the NHL. So I think for me its a dream come true. I just want to keep on getting better and having fun.

The dream is just getting started for Hamilton and the Bruins, and its clear neither player nor team will be waking up anytime soon.

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

Bruins hope OT win was sign of things to come offensively

BOSTON -- For a team where offense has been a major problem area this season, lighting the lamp four times against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a welcomed sight for the Bruins indeed.

The Bruins won it in dazzling fashion with a 4-3 overtime win on a David Pastrnak rush to the net after he totally undressed D-man Mike Matheson on his way to the painted area, and then skill took over for him easily beating Roberto Luongo with a skate-off goal.

That was the game-breaker doing his thing and finishing with a pair of goals in victory, and continuing to push a pace that has the 20-year-old right wing on track for more than 40 goals this season.

That would give the Bruins just their fourth 40-goal scorer in the last 25 years of franchise history (Glen Murray in 2002-03, Bill Guerin in 2001-02 and Cam Neely in 1993-94), and mark one of the bigger reasons behind an expected offensive surge that may just be coming for a Black and Gold group currently ranked 23rd in the league in offense.

They just hope that the four strikes vs. Florida is indeed a harbinger of things to come for the rest of the season after serving as just the eighth time in just 26 games this season that they scored more than two goals.

“[There have been] a lot of tight games and low-scoring games, you’re right. It’s good, but as a goalie, I’m not happy when I let in three goals, ever. But it’s great to see that scoring support,” said Tuukka Rask. “When you get four goals, you expect to win, and a lot of times when we get three, I expect to win. It’s great to see [an uptick in scoring].”

So what is there to be optimistic about from a B’s offensive perspective aside from Pastrnak blowing up for a couple more goals to keep pace among the NHL league leaders with Sidney Crosby and Patrick Laine?

Well, the Bruins are starting to see results from crashing to the front of the net, attacking in the offensive zone and finally finishing off plays after serving as one of the best puck possession teams in the league over the first few months.

Just look at how the goals were scored, and how the Bruins are working in closer to the net rather than settling for perimeter plays.

The first goal on Monday night was a result of Tim Schaller crashing down the slot area for a perfectly executed one-timer feed from David Krejci. Similarly David Pastrnak was hanging around in front of the net in the second period when a no-look, spinning Brad Marchand dish from behind the net came his way, and he wasn’t going to miss from that range against Roberto Luongo. Then David Backes parked his big body in front of the Florida net in the third period, and redirected a Ryan Spooner shot up and over Luongo for the score that got the Bruins into overtime.

It’s one of a couple of goals scored by Backes down low recently, and his third goal in the last five games as he heats up with his playmaking center in Krejci. The 32-year-old Backes now has seven goals on the season and is on pace for 26 goals after a bit of a slow start, and the offense is coming for that line as they still search for balance in their two-way hockey play.

“A few more guys are feeling [better] about their games, and know that we’re capable of putting a crooked number up like that. It bodes well moving forward,” said Backes. “But you can’t think that we’re going to relax after the effort that we put in. We’ve got to skill to those dirty areas and still get those second and third chances, and not take anything off during those opportunities. It’s got to go to the back of the net.

“With the way Tuukka has played, and our defense has been stingy and our penalty kill has been on, four goals should be a win for our team. It hasn’t always been easy for us this year. It’s been a process, but I think you’re starting to see the things that you need to see in order for us to score goals. We’re going to the front of the net and getting extended offensive zone time, and then you find a few guys like Pasta in the slot. That’s a good recipe for us.”

Then there’s Ryan Spooner, who enjoyed his best game of the season on Monday night and set up the B’s third goal of the game with his speed and creativity. It was noticeable watching Spooner play with his unbridled skating speed and creative playmaking, and it made a discernible difference in Boston’s overall offensive attack against Florida. It’s something that Claude Julien is hoping to see more of moving forward from Spooner after recent trade rumors really seemed to spark the 23-year-old center, and also knocked some of the inconsistency from a player that’s extremely dangerous offensively when he’s “on.”

“It’s obvious that if Ryan wants to give us those kinds of games, then we have lots of time for him. When he doesn’t we just can’t afford to give him that kind of ice time,” said Julien. “There are games where he hasn’t been as involved, and it’s obvious and apparent to everybody that when he’s not getting involved then he’s not helping our team. When he is playing the way he did yesterday, we can certainly use that player more than not. We’d love to see him get consistent with those kinds of games.”

So while it’s clear the Bruins aren’t completely out of the woods offensively and there are still players like Patrice Bergeron sitting below their usual offensive numbers, it’s also been a little mystifying to watch Boston struggle so much offensively given their talent level.

The Black and Gold fully realized that potential in taking a tough divisional game from Florida on Monday night, and they hope it’s something to build on as the schedule doesn’t let up at all in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Tuesday, Dec. 6: The Bruins-Panthers connection

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while Dave Dombrowski is collecting stars and talent over at Fenway Park. I dig it.

*Interesting piece about switching teams in the NHL and leaving behind old allegiances when the job calls for it.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) Harvey Fialkov looks at the connections between the Bruins and the Florida Panthers, and more specifically with the Panthers and the Boston-area.

*A rumor round-up across the NHL including the humorous nugget that the Bruins are looking to move Jimmy Hayes. Yes, they are looking to move Hayes. They are begging some other NHL team to take on the player and the contract for somebody that has one point since last February. It’s not happening.

*Escrow is at the heart of the next negotiation between the NHL and the NHLPA, and I really thought it was going to be years before I’d have to even think about the CBA again.

*Tough break for the Florida Panthers losing Keith Yandle for a long period of time after he was injured last night vs. the Bruins. FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mike Halford has the story at Pro Hockey Talk.

*Wild coach Bruce Boudreau talks his “bucket list”, which includes a lot of movies and even a stint as a movie reviewer for the Manchester Union Leader back in the day.

*Sounds like Pat Maroon might want to sit out the next few plays after calling hockey a “man’s game” among other things.

*For something completely different: Yup, I’m pretty okay with the Red Sox blowing up the prospect cupboard for Chris Sale.