BOSTON -- It will be a bittersweet memory based on the result, but Dougie Hamilton won’t soon forget his first NHL playoff game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team he grew up rooting for.
Hamilton acquitted himself well in a limited role, but his Bruins fell by a 4-2 score to the Toronto Maple Leafs at Game 2 at TD Garden to even the series as the setting turns to the Air Canada Centre in Toronto for the next two games.
The 19-year-old hadn’t played in a game for the Bruins since their woeful loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on April 23, and he was a healthy scratch for the team's final three regular season games and first playoff tilt. So there was some rustiness in Hamilton’s game as he logged just 13:32 of ice time with Bruins coach Claude Julien easing him into the Stanley Cup playoff intensity.
He skated mostly with Wade Redden as a bottom-pairing defenseman and steered clear of any trouble until his playoff nerves dissipated by the end of the first period.
“The first period I was a little bit nervous. Just haven’t played a game in a while, so I felt better after that,” said Hamilton. “I thought I played well and it’s just unfortunate that we didn’t get the win.
“With all the extra hitting and physical play [it was more intense] . . . just with how much each game means. [Game 2] was definitely more intense.”
Hamilton didn’t really factor into the offense and didn’t earn any power play time, but the rookie also didn’t make many mistakes while finishing at an even rating with a couple of hits and five shots attempted. Unfortunately his insertion into the lineup for the suspended Andrew Ference meant that the Bruins coaching staff separated their top defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg, and that had serious ramifications for the Black and Gold.
“Dougie played a solid game, and he did what he had to do,” said Claude Julien, who was clearly disappointed in his team’s overall defensive effort in the loss.
With Ference expected to return in Game 3 after serving his one game suspension, Hamilton will likely be headed back to the bench. But the rookie is still excited to see what the Air Canada Centre will feel like with playoff hockey fever taking over his home city of Toronto.
“That’ll be really cool, I think. I think I remember going to playoff games as a kid and I know the fans are pretty good in Toronto,” said Hamilton. “I’m sure it’ll be a really good atmosphere.”
It will be even cooler for Hamilton and the Bruins if they can waltz into Toronto and take a couple of playoff wins against a team that hasn’t hosted a playoff game in nearly 10 years.