|A look at how former Bruins have started with new teams||10.16.15 at 1:09 pm ET|
The Bruins’ changes this summer meant familiar faces are gone and new ones have arrived. Though the B’s can’t be happy with their start, it’s also been a mixed bag for those to whom they bid adieu.
Jimmy Hayes’ four-point performance on Wednesday aside, Boston’s newcomers have been slow to get adjusted. Here’s a look at how the former Bruins have started with their new teams:
Milan Lucic, Kings: It’s been a very quiet start for both the Kings (0-3-0) and Lucic. Through three games, Lucic has landed just two shots on goal. The bad news there is that he has zero points, but the good news is that he’s one point away from tying for the team lead. He played the first two games on a line with Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik, but the Kings have since pulled the plug on that experiment. Lucic is now skating with Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli.
Dougie Hamilton, Flames: Playing on what should be a stellar top pairing with T.J. Brodie out, Hamilton and Mark Giordano haven’t had the hottest start together. Though Hamilton scored a power-play goal in Calgary‘s second game of the season, he’s been on the ice for just one even-strength goal for and four goals against. All four of those goals came on shifts played with Giordano.
Martin Jones, Sharks: Though only Bruins property for less than five days, it’s worth including Jones here for the sake of justifying what looked like a rather odd trade at the time. After getting Jones in the Lucic trade, the Bruins got the Sharks to surrender a first-round pick and a prospect (Sean Kuraly) for the former Kings backup goaltender. So far, the deal hasn’t looked like as much of a steal for the Bruins as it did back in June. Jones has been absolutely lights-out with two shutouts and a .987 save percentage in three starts for San Jose.
Carl Soderberg, Avalanche: Wednesday night saw Soderberg’s former teammates make his new contract look not-so-good. Soderberg was on the ice for goals by Boston’s second, third and fourth lines. The 30-year-old center had assists in each of Colorado’s first two games.
Reilly Smith, Panthers: Smith’s doing a little bit of everything for the Panthers, including killing penalties after never being used in that role as a Bruin. Smith has a pair of goals (both of which he scored in his Panthers debut) and an assist through four games on a line with Nick Bjugstad and Brandon Pirri.
Gregory Campbell, Blue Jackets: The former Merlot-Liner is averaging a little under 11 minutes a night through four games with Columbus and so far the results haven’t been great. His line is getting outscored (three goals against, none for) and Campbell has managed just one shot on net.
Matt Bartkowski, Canucks: Bartkowski has suited up in all four of the Canucks’ games after being in and out of Boston’s lineup over the years. He’s been used on Vancouver’s second pairing with Dan Hamhuis, which has held up well despite its poor possession numbers. He has an assist on the season, but he’s still looking for his first regular-season goal 135 games into his career.
Daniel Paille, Rockford IceHogs (AHL): After spending training camp with the Blackhawks on a professional tryout, the 31-year-old left wing went to Chicago’s AHL camp before signing with the IceHogs. He’s played one game for them, recording no points.
Niklas Svedberg, Ufa Salavat Yulayev (KHL): Svedberg went to the KHL after a statistically decent showing with the Bruins, but one that saw the B’s lose confidence in him and stop playing him. So far, Claude Julien appears to have been in the right. Svedberg has an .887 save percentage in 19 games in Russia.
Peter Chiarelli, Oilers: It’s going to be a while before the Oilers are competitive. That they had to play the Blues twice in their first four games makes their 0-4-0 start less than surprising.
|Matt Bartkowski signs with Canucks||07.01.15 at 1:07 pm ET|
Predictably, Matt Bartkowski’s time with the Bruins is over. Predictably, the next chapter of his career will be in Vancouver.
The Canucks signed the 27-year-old defenseman to a one-year deal on Wednesday, the opening day of free agency. Bartkowski was an unrestricted free agent after spending the first five years of his career with the Bruins.
Bartkowski will be reunited with former Bruins assistant general manager Jim Benning, who took over as Canucks GM last offseason.
The B’s initially acquired Bartkowski in a 2010 trade with the Panthers that also brought Dennis Seidenberg to Boston. Bartkowski was a seventh-round pick of the Panthers in 2008, but never signed with Florida. He left Ohio State after two seasons to turn pro.
Bartkowski’s tenure with the B’s was full of stops and starts and various stints in Boston and Providence. A skilled skater, Bartkowski struggled with confidence and had trouble solidifying a spot in Boston’s lineup, with the 2013-14 campaign seeing him play a career-high 64 games thanks largely to Seidenberg‘s season-ending knee injury.
Though Bartkowski scored a big goal in Game 7 of the first round against the Maple Leafs in the 2013 playoffs, he has no goals in 131 regular-season games in the NHL.
|Bruins might have to rely on Matt Bartkowski again||02.26.15 at 9:30 pm ET|
When asked Thursday what he learned from last postseason, Matt Bartkowski brought up an expression that Providence coach Bruce Cassidy tells his players.
“If you don’t bring your A game,” Bartkowski said, “you’ve got to bring your B game.”
That might not fit any player better than it does Bartkowski. Ups and downs and ins and outs are pretty much all he knows at the NHL level. Getting into the Bruins’ lineup has been tough, and when he’s played he’s been the ultimate trick-or-treat player. Now the Bruins might need him again.
Defense has arguably been the Bruins’ biggest need all season, and that was before the B’s lost Kevan Miller to season-ending shoulder surgery. After serving as a healthy scratch for a month and a half (17 straight games), Bartkowski was given a game against Calgary during the Bruins’ recent road trip and stuck in the lineup after Miller went down.
A trade (or a callup of Joe Morrow) could change things, but for now Bartkowski finds himself in a similar situation as last season. He could be in line to play a top-four role down the stretch, as he did last season when Dennis Seidenberg went down in late December and the Bruins couldn’t adequately replace him via trade. Perhaps because the Bruins would rather Torey Krug stay on the third pairing, Bartkowski is almost always used as a top-four player when he is in the lineup.
While an upgrade to Boston’s second pairing (Bartkowski-Seidenberg) is needed for the Bruins to make a deep run, Bartkowski’s last few games have suggested he’ll fare better in the spot than he did earlier in the season, when he and Seidenberg turned in some especially ugly games, including one in which Bartkowski’s positioning cost the B’s a game against the Avalanche in the final second on a Daniel Briere goal.
It’s odd that Bartkowski has looked fine after not playing for a month given that he was a disaster at the beginning of the season, when one would thing he would be physically sharper. Bartkowski himself finds it puzzling, but his priority is keeping his play where it is.b
“To start the year, I wasn’t playing well at all, and then when I got in right before the California swing, I started to play well, and then out again,” he said. “I don’t know. It just came around. I’m playing like myself again.”
Claude Julien said that while Bartkowski was out of the lineup, the team had him fine-tune things that have left him better equipped now than he was before. Asked what specifically, Julien replied ‘a lot of everything.’
“A lot in all different areas. Sometimes you know you’re a natural skater, which I think he is, and you think you can get away with that,” Julien said.”But it takes a little bit more than that. You’ve got to be prepared as a player. Are you mentally prepared to make plays? Are you ready to put the time in? To be in good shape is one thing; to be in great shape is another.”
Bartkowski’s experience in this role ended the wrong way last year. After Andrej Meszaros was brought in to challenge him, Bartkowski got sick and missed the beginning of the playoffs. When he came back, he was off his game. Meszaros wasn’t any better, and the Bruins were forced into a rotation of struggling defensemen playing important games.
“It was just more inconsistent in the playoffs,” he recalled. “There was like a good [game], a really bad one, a good one, a really bad one. That just can’t happen again.”
The next few days will say a lot about what Bartkowski’s role with the Bruins will be going forward, assuming he isn’t traded. Forcing their seventh defenseman to play big minutes hurt the team last season, but if it happens again, Bartkowski thinks that with health and improved play, he can handle the job.
“This year, I’m gonna hold my spot,” Bartkowski said. “I want to stay consistent. I don’t want to have any dips at all.”
That’s the right attitude to have, but it’s always been easier said than done with Bartkowski and the Bruins.
|Matt Bartkowski avoids supplemental discipline for hit on Brian Gionta||12.22.14 at 1:05 pm ET|
Matt Bartkowski was not given any supplemental discipline for a hit to Sabres captain Brian Gionta that earned him a game misconduct Sunday night.
After Monday’s practice, Bartkowski said that he didn’t feel the hit was worthy of a suspension.
“It’s just a play in the game. You don’t like to see players leave the game,” he said. “It’s not like it was my intent to injure anybody. It was just a hit, so that’s about it.”
Bartkowski had to answer for the hit immediately, dropping the gloves with Marcus Foligno for his first career NHL fight. He said that after leaving the game due to the misconduct, he was more focused on the call than concerned with being suspended.
“I was just pissed that I had to leave the game,” Bartkowski said. “I don’t know. I didn’t think it was worthy of [a misconduct]. I was just more pissed about that for quite a while.”
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|Injuries mean jobs: Bruins’ young defensemen should seize moment like those before them||11.20.14 at 3:14 pm ET|
Peter Chiarelli will probably never say how many NHL defensemen he thinks he has again.
Since saying that he felt he had nine this offseason, the number has been tested significantly. After trading one of them in Johnny Boychuk, Chiarelli has seen five of his defensemen get hurt in the first 20 games of the season. Of the nine NHL-caliber defensemen Chiarelli said he felt the Bruins possessed, the only three who haven’t suffered an injury this season have been Dennis Seidenberg, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski.
That is rough, rough stuff for the Bruins, but it does allow that list of NHL defensemen to get longer. Games played as injury replacements have been the avenue to the NHL for many of Boston’s young defensemen, with Hamilton really the only one who was actually given a job to begin his NHL career.
Adam McQuaid filled in for an injured Mark Stuart and took his job in 2011. Torey Krug and Matt Bartkowski earned their sweaters in the 2013 postseason. Kevan Miller and Zach Trotman got their feet wet a season ago with injuries to various blueliners, while Joe Morrow initially came up to replace the struggling Bartkowski this season but will remain in the lineup in part because of Boston’s ailing back end.
Krug thinks that’s a respectable way to become an NHL player. He feels jumping in to replace a hurt player leaves less room for thinking, which is a good way to avoid mistakes for a young player.
“It doesn’t leave you time to think about what could happen or what could go wrong, because you’re the only option,” he said. “They’re putting you in the game and you’ve just got to go out and do your thing. All the guys that have gone out and done so so far have taken the right mindset.
“That’s the only reason I’m here right now, is because there was an opportunity with a couple guys hurt in the playoffs, and I [made] the best of it. I think these guys are doing a good job of taking these opportunities and running with it. It’s fun when you earn things like that.”
McQuaid had gotten off to a very encouraging start to this season coming off an injury-plagued 2013-14 campaign that saw him dress in only 30 games. With a broken thumb putting his season on hold for 6-8 weeks, the Bruins have to go back to their group of young defensemen for bigger and tougher minutes.
That won’t be easy, but given the job that Miller did replacing him last season and the play they’ve gotten from other young blueliners, the Bruins are confident they can handle the loss.
“Is it a silver lining? It is in a way because we really felt we had some good depth on the back end,” Claude Julien said. “I think it’s showing now. Whoever we bring up seems to be doing a decent job. A lot of guys that are here now are going to make it difficult for us when it’s all said and done. There’s a pretty good competition going again on our back end.”
Morrow, a 2011 first-round pick, has proven to be a better NHL player than he was an AHL player. Trotman, meanwhile, was replaced by Bartkowski on Saturday and eventually sent to Providence, but now he’s back with the NHL club. Neither player was on Chiarelli’s unofficial list of nine this summer, but they can add their names to it with strong performances.
Given their injuries, the Bruins’ list of NHL-caliber defensemen isn’t anything like what it was in the offseason, but as players return to the lineup, the B’s could eventually find themselves at a point where they have more guys capable of handling NHL minutes than they did immediately after trading Boychuk.
“I think that number’s grown,” Krug said. “You’re witnessing Joe come in and do a great job, and Trots is getting the experience and he’s doing well. I think that number’s getting higher and higher. Hopefully at some point, we have that many guys that the coaching staff has to make a decision who to play.”
|Matt Bartkowski’s mostly good return to lineup highlights small margin for error||11.15.14 at 5:54 pm ET|
Matt Bartkowski made one mistake that could have been costly. Early in the second period, with the Bruins leading Carolina 2-1, Bartkowski turned the puck over to Chris Terry just inside his own blue line. Terry led a quick 2-on-1 and tried to center for Jeff Skinner, who wound up redirecting an aerial pass over the net.
Aside from that one play, Bartkowski’s return to the lineup following seven straight healthy scratches was a good one. He was effective on breakouts. He got involved in the offensive zone and wound up with four shots on goal, tied for the team lead in the game. He was physical, most notably landing a big, clean hit on Patrick Dwyer midway through the second. His plus-3 Corsi was the best among Bruins defensemen in the game.
“I think I did alright for how much time I sat out,” Bartkowski said. “I was moving. I didn’t really give them too much, a few chances, but other than that it went pretty well.”
In many ways, Saturday’s game was a good representation of Bartkowski as a whole. There has always been quite a bit to like about Bartkowski’s game, namely his skating, puck movement in transition and ability to win battles down low.
Let’s not forget that Bartkowski was a top-four defenseman for a stretch during the 2013 playoffs and then for most of last season, and that he was at least serviceable in that role. There’s a reason he got those minutes over other options — because he was better-equipped to handle them.
But there have always been those mistakes, too. They started to reach a breaking point in last year’s playoffs, when he wound up being a healthy scratch in favor of Andrej Meszaros four times in 12 games. Then they continued into this season, and Bartkowski found himself watching from the press box as less experienced players like Joe Morrow, Zach Trotman and David Warsofsky were given a look.
Bartkowski said he didn’t work on any one thing in particular while he was out of the lineup and instead just tried to work hard and stay positive.
“Just worked hard in practice, worked hard on the bike, in the weight room,” Bartkowski said. “That’s about it. … Just playing hockey, that’s all it is. And just focused on staying in game shape.”
Bartkowski playing well can help the Bruins’ back end more than Morrow or Trotman. He could even get back into the top four (for what it’s worth, he was sixth among Bruins defensemen in ice time on Saturday). But he needs to cut down on the mistakes. An occasional mistake is understandable, but if they happen every night, Claude Julien may be forced to bench him again.
Even a mistake like Saturday’s — just one in an otherwise good game — is pushing it. What if the Hurricanes had converted on that 2-on-1 and tied the game? The rest of Bartkowski’s good game would have been completely forgotten and that mistake would have been the story of the game if the Bruins went on to drop a point or two.
It’s a thin line for Bartkowski right now, and that what-if scenario from Saturday highlights just how thin it is.
|Switch to Joe Morrow a big reason why Bruins have survived without Zdeno Chara||11.11.14 at 1:07 pm ET|
WILMINGTON — The Bruins are now 6-1-0 without Zdeno Chara. They’re also 5-0-0 with Joe Morrow in the lineup instead of Matt Bartkowski.
The latter point isn’t a shot at Bartkowski, a good player whose struggles with his game and his confidence led him to the press box for the time being, but it does tell part of the story as to why the Bruins have improved defensively over the course of this stretch without their best defenseman.
Paired with Adam McQuaid, Morrow, a 2011 first-round pick, has been safe. For a team that had been looking up to tighten up defensively, that’s all the B’s could have wanted. Like Bartkowski, Morrow is a good skater and passer, but Bartkowski’s decision-making and defensive coverage were uncharacteristically poor in his five games this season. The Bruins called up Morrow after the team’s Oct. 28 loss to the Wild to replace Bartkowski.
Decision-making was one of the questions attached to Morrow when the Bruins got him from the Stars as part of the Tyler Seguin trade. Peter Chiarelli said the day of the trade that the B’s would be patient with the twice-traded player and give him the proper AHL instruction. That potential red flag that has been mentioned at points of his two-year-plus AHL career has yet to pop up.
“I don’t know exactly what that means, but when you when you have the company of these players around you and that’s what you’re playing with, you kind of raise your game match theirs and to contribute,” Morrow said. “You don’t want to let anyone in the dressing room down. You know it’s really important to win up here, so you give that little extra effort.
“Yeah, I think I have a more suitable style to the National Hockey League than I do to the American Hockey League, but I guess time will tell if that’s really true.”
His coaches and former coaches aren’t the only ones who have been satisfied with what Morrow’s brought to the table. Tuukka Rask said that Morrow has brought some defensive stability to the B’s.
“I think he’s been playing really good and improving every game,” Rask said of Morrow. “Especially the past couple of games, I’ve really liked the way he’s played and played defense and carried the puck up the ice.”
Rask pointed to a third-period play Monday against the Devils in which Morrow’s positioning allowed him to break up a potential back-door scoring opportunity and skate the puck to safety.
“Things like that that people might not see,” Rask said, “I see and try to give them credit for it.”
All in all, Rask likes the way the team has looked defensively of late.
“Really good. Really good,” Rask said of the Bruins’ play in their own zone. “We’re eliminating chances we kind of want to eliminate and making little plays around the net and taking their sticks away and stuff. It’s paid off lately. I feel like we’re really taking steps in the right direction.”
Bartkowski is a better player than he’s shown and he will be better if and when he gets more games. His absence, however, has allowed the Bruins to get a look at another young defender and enjoy stronger defensive efforts.