The Boston Bruins have three rookie defensemen in the lineup for
the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers.
It’s not because they want to.
It’s because they have to.
”As you know, we’re getting thin here,” Bruins coach Claude
Julien said on Friday, a day after Torey Krug, in his first career
NHL playoff game, scored to send the game into overtime and Boston
defeated the New York Rangers 3-2 in Game 1 of their best-of-seven,
second-round playoff series.
With veterans Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden
injured, the Bruins used first-round draft pick Dougie Hamilton
along with Krug and Mart Bartkowski on defense. Hamilton assisted
on Krug’s goal with 2:55 left in regulation, and Bartkowski played
a career-high 26 minutes in the 3-2 victory over the Rangers.
”For a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better situation,” Julien
said on Friday, when his team took the day off to rest up for
Sunday’s Game 2. ”A lot of credit goes to the coaching staff down
there (in the minor leagues) that’s done a great job at preparing
Julien would not say whether any of his injured players would be
able to return for the second game. If not, he’ll continue to rely
on his rookies. Hamilton, who made the team out of training camp
and played 42 games in the lockout-shortened season, said it helps
to know that he won’t be yanked out of the lineup with one bad
Even if it’s only because the Bruins have no choice.
”For all of us, it’s not just trying to belong, but getting
that opportunity to get regular shifts. It helps you stay
focused,” he said. ”It makes it easier when you have that
confidence that you can just stay in the game and focus on the
Hamilton, the No. 9 overall pick in the 2011 draft, had five
goals and 11 assists this season while averaging about 17 minutes
per game. But he moved up the depth chart when injuries stripped
the Bruins of three of their top six defensemen.
”We’ve got to remember that he’s 19 years old,” Julien said.
”He’s made some unbelievable plays on some goals; we saw that
early when he came in and we seemed in awe of that. Playoffs is
another step and he’s taken that step extremely well, to me.”
To help fill in, the Bruins called Bartkowski up from the AHL
for the third time this year; he had two assists and six penalty
minutes in 11 games for Boston this year. And Krug, who’s played
three NHL games in the past two seasons, was brought up from
Providence on Tuesday after Seidenberg lasted just 37 seconds in
the first-round finale over Toronto.
”What we’ve seen from (Krug) the few games he’s played with us,
he doesn’t seem to be intimidated by anything, or any
circumstances,” Julien said. ”I didn’t see a guy that was nervous
at all. If anything, I saw a guy that was extremely confident at
making the executions that he needed to make.”
The other change the Bruins made on defense was to rely even
more heavily on Zdeno Chara. The 2009 Norris Trophy-winner, who
averaged about 25 minutes per game in the regular season, has
played about 30 minutes per game in the playoffs, including 35
minutes in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs and more than 38 in the
opener of the Rangers series.
”He’s in great shape, and he’s got a couple of days here to
recover. So I don’t see that being an issue,” Julien said. ”To be
honest with you, right now we don’t have a choice. You deal with it
the best way you can.”
And so do the Rangers.
”With all the minutes he has, the more tired he’s going to
get,” New York defenseman Steve Eminger said. ”At the end of the
day, it doesn’t matter if they have six veterans (on defense). We
just have to put even more pressure on them and generate more
The Rangers hope some of that offense will come from Rick Nash
and Brad Richards, who have one goal between them in eight playoff
games. Nash did have an assist Thursday – his third of the
postseason – but has yet to find the back of the net despite taking
a team-high 28 shots.
Another concern is New York’s power play, which went 0 for 3 in
Game 1 and has failed to convert in 14 opportunities over the last
four games. The Rangers are 2 for 31 with the man advantage in the
playoffs and coach John Tortorella tried to light a fire under
forward Carl Hagelin, who’s tied for second on the team with five
points in the postseason.
“I think he’s too quick,” Tortorella told NHL.com when asked why
Hagelin is struggling on the power-play units. “I’d like to put him
out on the power play but he stinks on the power play. I can’t
figure it out. I can’t. I love the guy. He is such an effective
player, but he, as I said many times, stinks on the power play.
“But he may get an opportunity if we keep on going here.”
Henrik Lundqvist, who made 45 saves in the opener, has suffered
three of his four losses in the postseason in overtime.