Hits and Misses: Young defensemen show their worth

Hits and Misses: Young defensemen show their worth
March 3, 2014, 2:15 am
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A few observations from the Bruins 6-3 win over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden that featured a pair of goals from fourth line center Gregory Campbell.

1) Despite a few defensive breakdowns, some really encouraging work done by a couple of the young Bruins defensemen. Dougie Hamilton was caught cheating offensively in the first period with Zdeno Chara also too deep in the offensive end, and that turned into a scoring J.T. Miller breakaway that got New York on the board. But Hamilton bounced back nicely in the following two periods with a career-high three points, three shots on net and three blocked shots while totaling almost 20 minutes of ice time against the Rangers best players. Hamilton showed off the full offensive arsenal with his booming point, willingness to cut in close to the net on a rush from the blue line and passing instincts. Matt Bartkowski had a similarly shaky first period, but then bounced back with a game-high plus four rating and a nice play to set up Milan Lucic’s goal at the end of the game. Bartkowski also finished second behind Chara with 22:02 of ice time in the win over the Rangers, and is giving the Bruins ample evidence that he can handle a prominent role in the playoffs.

2) Tuukka Rask made 19 saves in the first period when the Rangers threw the kitchen sink at Boston, and singlehandedly kept the Bruins in the game until they could get their bearings in the final 40 minutes. For anybody that felt Rask struggled in allowing four goals to the Capitals on Saturday afternoon it was reassurance that the Bruins goaltender was still riding that confidence high from the Olympics in Sochi. Part of the dreary defensive results in the first two games was average-bad goaltending, but the Bruins got advanced puck-stopping from a well-rested Rask on Sunday night.

3) Zdeno Chara finished with a team-high 25:57 and an even plus/minus rating, but he has looked heavy-legged and sluggish in his first three games back from the Olympics. The Rangers had a handful of good scoring chances in the first period aside from the Miller goal while Chara was defending out on the ice, and that’s usually not the case with the B’s captain. It might be time for the Bruins to start telling the big guy to skip morning skates and a couple of practices a week until he begins to regain the bounce in his skating stride. Both the decision-making and reaction time was noticeably off for the B’s captain on Sunday night, and the Bruins can’t survive that way with a rookie-laden defenseman corps.

4) Fourth line has been no joke for the Black and Gold in the last few games. Gregory Campbell potted a pair of goals going hard to the net on Sunday night, and could have been credited with a goal in the Saturday afternoon loss to the Capitals. Clearly Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille and Campbell were good in both games playing with speed, aggression and energy – and Thornton had Daniel Carcillo back down from a potential fight with him in the second period – but they also got the results Sunday vs. a Rangers team they dominated in last spring’s playoffs. Campbell is skating with the kind of confidence and speed that he didn’t seem to have in the first few months of the season, and it makes all the difference for the Merlot Line.

5) Goals from Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic ended the S.O.S. for the Bruins top line that had gone invisible in the first two games back from the break. Iginla knocked home a David Krejci pass from the front of the net, and Lucic tipped a Matt Bartkowski shot past Henrik Lundqvist. The resurgence of that line was a big reason behind putting up a six spot against Lundqvist for the first time in 24 starts against the Rangers superstar goalie.