Hamilton passing B's tests since scratches

Hamilton passing B's tests since scratches
March 22, 2014, 12:00 pm
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DENVER – If Friday night was one of the tests to see how Dougie Hamilton will fare once the playoffs bullets start flying, the 20-year-old Bruins blueliner aced the pucks pop quiz.

If Hamilton’s two assists on the scoresheet weren’t enough to prove it in Boston’s 2-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center, then perhaps the sight of defensive partner Zdeno Chara walking across the room and extending a big celebratory handshake in the Bruins dressing room did the trick. Boston’s shutdown defensemen pair factored heavily into the first shutout of the explosive Avalanche this season, and Hamilton blocked three shots while also firing off the four shot attempts and two helpers on Boston’s only goals.

“Coming into this game I knew their forwards had been playing very well, and we had to be good against them,” said Hamilton. “They come at you with a lot of speed, and some good scoring ability. You just try to limit them just like every game.”

Chara knows that Dougie did the job in helping shut out the explosive Avs for the first time this season, and Claude Julien also saw a playoff-style effort from both ends of that defensive pairing.

“Factoring into the goals isn’t surprising for me with Dougie: he’s got a great head [for offense] and he sees the play well,” said Julien. “But defensively, like a lot of guys, he got better as the game went along. He was getting in battles, and he had to compete against some good players on the other side. But they’re a young team and he’s a young player, so it was a good challenge for him.”

Hamilton finished with two assists in 19:18 of ice time skating with Zdeno Chara while lined up against Colorado’s best offensive players, and was highly effective at both ends of the ice. The young D-man was also rewarded with something new in the win over Colorado: key shifts at the end of periods, and in the final minutes of the game when the Bruins coaching staff sends out their most trusted players onto the ice.

“It was about trying to be more physical, and it’s a different situation when you know there are [depth] guys that are ready to play,” said Hamilton. “I think every game you focus on trying to do your best so you’re not out of the lineup. Sometimes that can be tough, and sometimes that can be good.

“For me it’s been about trying to play more physical, especially with Johnny [Boychuk] out of the lineup for the last few games. I’ve been getting some opportunities to play with empty nets, and in the last few minutes [of games and periods]. I didn’t really have that before. It’s a new challenge, and it’s been fun to be able to do that stuff.”

It’s been an easy decision lately given Hamilton’s play since being a healthy scratch for two games at the beginning of March. He’s upped the physical ante with plays his like big hit on Carolina forward Jeff Skinner, and he’s got three assists along with a plus-5 in the five games since returning to the lineup.

He’s also been averaging close to 20 minutes a game as Chara’s defensive partner, and has shown with actions – rather than words – that he can handle the responsibility once things get a little nasty.

The Bruins coaching staff is watching all the defensemen closely, and making their evaluations with the playoffs right around the corner. Clearly they want to see each of their young D’s competing hard through the next 12 games, and finishing up strong.

But if Hamilton keeps playing the way he’s been over the last five games – and especially with the way he played in a hard game against Colorado – he’s got nothing to worry about when it comes to making the top six for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.