Three Little Baby Bruins getting it done for Boston

Three Little Baby Bruins getting it done for Boston
May 17, 2013, 11:15 am
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BOSTON –- The Bruins have done all the right things in nurturing, developing and sculpting their group of young defensemen into players that will eventually become mainstays at the NHL level. But at some points rookies and unproven players need to be thrown into the fire, and that was the exact case in Game 1 against the New York Rangers as Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski were all tossed out in roles where it would be sink or swim.

The three 20-something defenseman couldn’t be hidden or babied with injuries knocking Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden out of the mix for Thursday night’s second round opener. But each of the Three Little Baby Bears stepped up in a big way, and performed beyond expectations in giving the Bruins a solid defensemen corps that led Boston to their 3-2 overtime victory at TD Garden.

It’s already clear that Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask is in his happy place when the Three Little Baby Bears are out on the ice.

“They were some of the better D's today. They can skate really fast and move the puck good,” said Rask, who 33 saves in the victory. “They were solid in our own end to, so it’s good to see that they have that confidence to play the way they play in the NHL playoffs.”

The contributions of Krug and Hamilton were fairly self-evident. Krug potted his first career NHL goal in his first Stanley Cup playoff game in the third period as an answer to a pair of Rangers goals, and tied things up at 2-2 enabling the Bruins to send into overtime. The shot came from the left point on the power play after a calm, crisp pass from Dougie Hamilton at the right point position, where the 19-year-old defensemen generated five shots on net and eight total shots attempted.

Hamilton finished with a plus-2 rating in 20:45 of ice time, and Krug had three shots on net and three hits as a solid bottom pairing defenseman with Adam McQuaid.

But Bartkowski might have been the biggest find of them all despite the minus-2 rating, a clear indicator of how misleading plus/minus can be at times. The 24-year-old blue-liner used his skating legs and tenacity to play 26:42 with one shot on net, two hits and two blocked shots along with good solid play in all three zones.

His center ice hit on Rick Nash in the third period after he’s lost his stick was a great heads up play from Bartkowski, and an example of the hockey sense and smart plays he’s been executing with the puck on his stick.

“I thought they played really well. They deserve a lot of credit for the way they handled themselves, all three of them. It was Torey’s [Krug] first game, obviously. Not only did he score a big goal, but he just moved that puck so well,” said Claude Julien. “A lot of times, he played against their third line which is a pretty heavy line. I thought he handled them extremely well.

“Bart [Matt Bartkowski] continues to get better and better. He certainly takes the ice that’s given to him, he moves the puck up quickly. Those kinds of things have been really good. We’ve seen Dougie [Hamilton] with us all year. I thought they did a great job, but also our veterans that were back there with them. We saw Johnny Boychuk, the beating he took tonight and the amount of time that Z [Zdeno Chara] played. I thought we had a real good effort, obviously from those young guys, but our D corps was good tonight. I thought our whole team was, for that matter.”

Julien is right, of course. Chara played 38:02 of brilliant, dominant hockey as a defensive strongman and offensive force for the Black and Gold, and Boychuk had six hits, four blocked shots and hit a pair of posts in the third period and overtime that could have previously won the game for the Bruins.

It wasn’t meant to be for Johnny’s Rockets even though his parents made the trip to Boston, and sat in the crowd watching their son play brilliantly through pain and hard hits. Instead it was Chara that set up the game-winner, and the Three Little Baby Bruins defensemen that made an authoritative statement that their time has come in the playoffs for the Black and Gold.