Bartkowski ready for second chance

561492.jpg

Bartkowski ready for second chance

CHICAGO Matt Bartkowski didnt have a great hockey game against the Philadelphia Flyers on opening night, but the rookie defenseman didnt exactly have a terrible effort either.

The young defenseman was thrown into the Bruins lineup against the Flyers during the banner-raising evening when Adam McQuaid came down with a virus late in training camp, and finished with a largely uneventful eight plus minutes of ice time. The Bruins coaching staff essentially went with a five-man defensemen rotation for the majority of the game after the first period.

Then McQuaid returned to play the next three games before hitting his head against the boards against the Carolina Hurricanes, and now Bartkowski gets shot number two to impress the Bs brass against the Blackhawks.

The first game was alright. It was a first game. I had a couple of turnovers I could have stopped and I maybe hesitated a little bit, but it was alright on the whole, said Bartkowski matter-of-factly.

How excited is the 23-year-old to jump back into the fray with a second crack?

For sure Ive been waiting since the opener: Im eager, Im ready and Im excited so it should be fun, said Bartkowski. Watching the games Ive noticed little things like some system things like push-backs and 3-on-2 situations, and where to be on the penalty kill. There are certain things that guys do in the zone especially down low between the hash marks and stuff like that you watch everything.

Claude Julien liked the improvement he saw out of Bartkowski during training camp, and the specific gains in the strength and confidence areas. Bartkowski estimated he gained about seven pounds in the offseason, and said its not usually much of a problem keeping weight on once its been packed onto his frame.

This is a guy that we have a lot of faith will be a part of our group in the near future as a regular. Hes battling for that seventh spot, said Julien. To me hes way ahead of where he was last year and its just a matter of giving him some time on the ice with us and some confidence.

Hes a guy that had a good training camp with us. Hes become a lot stronger. Right now its about the speed of the game and moving the puck more quickly moving up the ice. Hes a good skater and all he needs to do is adapt to the speed of the game at this level.

On the flip side, Bartkowskis body of work during training camp got progressively worse as the preseason went along and he really stumbled in the last preseason game against the New York Islanders. The action and pace seemed to quicken up on Bartkowski and the decision-making suffered a little bit but now the young blueliner gets a chance to turn that trend around.

Dupont: If Tuukka Rask is healthy, he should start for Bruins

Dupont: If Tuukka Rask is healthy, he should start for Bruins

Mike Felger and Kevin Paul Dupont debate if it is time for the Bruins to send a message to Tuukka Rask and have Anton Khudobin get the starts in net.

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

bruins_riley_nash_032517.jpg

Nash stepping up when Bruins need him most

BROOKLYN -- It took most of his first season in Boston, but Riley Nash is hitting his groove with the Bruins at exactly the right time.

Nash came up huge in a must-win game Saturday night against the Islanders, scoring both goals in a 2-1 win over the Isle. The unheralded Nash and equally unheralded backup goalie Anton Khudobin were the two most important performers in the tight, playoff-style win that snapped a four game losing streak while pushing the B's back into playoff position.

"That's part of [a big win], right? Big performances,” said interim coach Bruce Cassidy. "Generally you look to your best players, but [Nash] did a really good job. He's got a sneaky shot, so hopefully he uses it a little bit more. You can't say enough about those goals. We needed them tonight.

"Generally our top guns have been good offensively and have come through. But tonight it was the lesser lights for us in terms of offense, so good for us.”

Both Nash goals were titanic. The first came on the first shift following the Islanders goal in the first period. The fourth-line winger stripped Isles defenseman Scott Mayfield in the neutral zone and then flipped a shot past Thomas Greiss to the short side that tied the game at 1-1. Then in the third period, Dominic Moore hit Nash in stride as he sped into the offensive zone, and Nash weaved through defenders before sneaking one past Greiss for the game-winner.

The two goals give Nash four goals and six points in 21 games since the All-Star break, in line with his normal offensive output during his NHL career, and a step up from the three goals and nine points in his first 52 games this season.

The affable Nash was more than happy to contribute in a big win, and enthused at seeing the offense finally starting to flow on a semi-regular basis when the Bruins can really use it.

"It's quite the output as opposed to the season I've had so far, so I'll take it and be happy that we won the game,” said Nash. "I think everyone in here knew that was the biggest game of the year. It was going to be a really big uphill battle if we lost that one.

"Both teams came out desperate in a pretty tight, playoff-style game, but that's what it's going to be like for the rest of the season. So we've got to hunker down and take it one game at a time as the saying goes.”

With the Bruins third line fading a bit in these tight, physical games where players have to battle for their ice, it's been vital that Boston's fourth line step up and provide big minutes at both ends of the ice. Nash and Co. did more than that on Saturday night by potentially saving the season with his biggest, best game in a Bruins uniform.