A 'lot of good things' to like about Bartkowski's game

A 'lot of good things' to like about Bartkowski's game
November 21, 2013, 4:00 pm
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After being a healthy scratch for 13 of Boston’s first 17 games, there was no way Matt Bartkowski was going to let a banged up left knee take him out of Tuesday night’s tilt vs. the New York Rangers.

The Bruins were already a defenseman down with Dennis Seidenberg lost to a lower body injury one shift into the game, and Bartkowski had taken a hard tumble into the boards after a Ryan Callahan shove from behind. Bartkowski stood up on the bench for most of the second period while working out the pain, and finished with over 20 minutes of ice time as the B’s secured a win largely without Seidenberg.

“There was no way I was coming out unless the trainers told me I couldn’t,” said Bartkowski. “I tore my meniscus in a game in Providence, and finished that one out. So I was staying in during that situation.”

That’s part of the toughness/speed package boasted by the 25-year-old Bartkowski, who has started to finally round into last year’s playoff form with consistent playing time during Adam McQuaid’s injury. He’s got three assists and a plus-4 rating in six games during the month of November while averaging 18:33 of ice time, and is pushing to stay in the lineup when McQuaid and Seidenberg both return to health.

Following up on an NHL training camp where Bartkowski led the B’s in points, he’s continuing to hammer home the point he could be a top-four NHL defenseman on most of the other 29 hockey clubs.

“It took me a game to get back into. I’m still going to make mistakes just like everybody else, but I feel like it’s been better and [my game] is progressing,” said Bartkowski. “Whenever I get into games – especially with this long of a stretch – you hope you’re playing well enough so the [coaching staff] won’t want to take me out.”

What’s transpiring now is exactly the kind of defensemen depth Boston expected to have entering the season while knowing that one good, young defenseman would start the season as a healthy scratch. Now that organizational D-man depth is paying off for the Black and Gold, who aren’t seeing a big drop-off in the win/loss department while losing two key defensemen.

“The more you play, the better you get and I think he’s skated better . . . he seems more confident now. He got banged up a little bit last game and sucked it up and kept playing,” said Claude Julien. “So there are a lot of good things that have come out of Bart [Matt Bartkowski].

“He’s grown as an athlete with experience and his knowledge of the expectations, and everything else. He’s definitely a guy that I think is playing better all the time, and we’re starting to rely on him a little bit more now with some of these injuries.”

That will continue on Thursday night against St. Louis as Bartkowski gets top-four defenseman minutes skating with Johnny Boychuk, and builds on what’s been an excellent month of November for a defenseman just entering his NHL prime.