Hamilton already proving he belongs with Bruins


Hamilton already proving he belongs with Bruins

If there were such a thing as NHL report cards then incoming freshman Dougie Hamilton would be getting straight As from the Boston Bruins after his first two appearances in Black and Gold.

The 19-year-old rookie was solid and unspectacular in his debut over the weekend after being dropped in a playoff-style atmosphere against the Rangers, and thats probably the best one could expect. But Hamilton took another step forward on Monday when more was asked of him after Dennis Seidenberg went down with a lower body injury, and couldnt answer the bell against Winnipeg.

Instead Hamilton was bumped up to the top defensemen pairing with Zdeno Chara, and that meant several things to the youngster.

It meant more responsibility and more ice time with the captain thats helping him learn the position at the NHL level, and more of a challenge facing the other teams best offensive talent. It also meant more ice time with players closer to his level than the man among boys setting hed been playing in with the Niagara IceDogs over the last two seasons.

Talking to him, he doesnt seem uncomfortable at all. Its not the pace thats going to bother him, because hes a great skater. He can keep up with the pace. Everything just happens a little bit quicker, which hes doing fine with, said Andrew Ference. He can move the puck, and I think he mentioned it as well; its almost easier to play at this level because all your teammates are in such good position.

Thats the biggest difference between this league and every other league: guys do have such good positional hockey awareness. Hes able to jump in with his skill set a lot easier than a guy thats just working hard because hes got the raw talent.

When the 19-year-old is excited about something, its likely to be some combination of cool, awesome or great. That kind of unfettered enthusiasm from a hockey-loving youngster is refreshing in a veteran dressing room like the Bruins, and speaks to just how much the former first round pick is relishing his opportunity.

Its really cool. I think when you can see that and just want to play better, said Hamilton. Every time youre out on the ice youve got to realize who youre playing against and just try and play your best and not let them score.

I didnt really come in with expectations, so everything that Im getting Im really excited about. I just want to make the most of the opportunity and do my best. Thats all I can do.

As opposed to keeping a low profile offensively as he did Saturday night, Hamilton even jumped up to join the offensive rush a few times and was robbed on a golden scoring by Winnipeg goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the first period. It was the exact proper read with one of the Bruins forwards down low helping Zdeno Chara break the puck out of the zone, and it allowed Hamilton jumped ahead on the rush and kept the offensive pressure on the Jets.

Thats exactly the kind of offensedefense the Bruins envision for Hamilton as he develops into a franchise-type defenseman capable of playing in all areas during all situations.

Logging 23:27 of ice time paired with Zdeno Chara and finishing with three shots on net and three hits along with a blocked shot in his second NHL game showed Bruins coach Claude Julien everything he could hope to see.

He was put in a tougher position today than he was in his first game, with Dennis Seidenberg out and Aaron Johnson playing his first game, said Julien. He had a bigger role to play. Even in the second half, I noticed that he was making better plays with the puck than he had so far. I think thats his confidence coming around. Hes starting to feel his way through these games, and thats pretty impressive for a young player.

Theres still the technical question of whether Hamilton will remain with the Bruins through his fifth game of the season, and go past the threshold when he could be returned to his OHL team in Niagara. Its an option the Bruins have if Hamilton struggled against NHL competition or seemed over his head in the strength department. The Bruins could even opt to return Hamilton if they decided the short 48-game regular season wasnt worth burning the first year of Hamiltons three-year entry level contract.

But none of that is anything close to reality after the teen-aged Hamilton has shown he can skate, pass, shoot and play with anybody as one of the youngest players in the NHL this season.

To me hes on our team, hes a player Im relying on until they tell me that hes not going to be here anymore, said Julien.

Dont expect anybody in the Bruins organization to tell Hamilton that he has to leave Boston for a long, long time after two games of overwhelming proof that he belongs now, next year and 10 years into the future.

Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes


Only five games into season, Bruins already sending off bad vibes

LAS VEGAS -- Even though it's only five games into a new regular season, it feels like the Bruins are in danger of going off the tracks.

They finished their three-game Western road swing Sunday with an aimless 3-1 loss to the expansion Golden Knights, which came on the heels of a wretched defeat in Colorado and a victory over the winless Coyotes. Sunday was particularly disheartening, as they never tested their ex-goalie, Malcolm Subban, putting only 21 mostly harmless shots on net against a player they gave away on waivers just a few weeks ago,

They may only have three losses in five games, but it sure feels like there's trouble starting to brew in Bruins land.

“It could be a lot of different things,” said Brad Marchand about the loss to Las Vegas. "We may not have been as mentally prepared for that game as we thought we were. They wanted it more than we did. They out-battled us in a lot of areas and they were the better team. We were making it hard on ourselves. We were trying to do too much with the puck, and not directing enough of the pucks toward the net. You can’t get rebound and you can’t get bodies there if the puck isn’t going there.”

That is a lot of different things. A lot of different problems:

-- They couldn’t fight to get to the front of the net against a rugged Vegas defensive group that was going to make them battle to get there.

-- Once again they had too many passengers along for the ride, with both Ryan Spooner and Frank Vatrano failing to even be a blip on the game’s radar screen. Spooner suffered a lower body injury midway through the game, but while he was out there he was a non-factor once again. 

-- It felt like there was no flow at all to Boston’s game, with breakouts dogged by sloppy passing and players who weren’t hard enough on the puck.

-- When they did get a chance to create something they either missed the net with their shot, or opted not to even take the shot in the first place. 

-- They lost 67 percent of the 57 draws taken during the game, and saw Spooner, Riley Nash and David Krejci and Ryan Spooner go a combined 8-for-29 in the face-off circle.

-- They chased the puck for long stretches and certainly didn’t ever put together anything approaching a consistent, driving pressure in the offensive zone.

Missing stalwart veterans like Patrice Bergeron and David Backes certainly isn’t helping. It makes the Bruins a much smaller group up front that can be pushed around by bigger, stronger defensive units.

But even so, there’s a sense the Bruins can’t consistently bring their 'A' game to the rink with them and don’t seem to have much fight when they fall down by a couple of goals. Trailing by just two goals going into the third period, the Bruins had four shots on net for most of the final period until a late flurry produced a score by David Pastrnak.

Perhaps of more concern, though, is the growing feeling that the Bruins aren’t all on the same page.

Marchand vaguely referenced that the Bruins weren’t prepared to play Sunday, and Tuukka Rask said he’ll no longer comment on anything except his own goaltending. Rask has always been candid and willing to be frank about any shortcomings after Bruins losses, but it appears that’s not something that is any longer welcome inside the B’s dressing room.

“I just try to go out there and give us a chance to win every night. That’s what I’m focused on,” said Rask. “I’m not going to comment anymore on team play that much. We can just talk about goaltending. That’s just the way it is. Sorry.”

Meanwhile, Krejci was similarly short in his postgame thoughts and started talking about avoiding pointing fingers after a frustrating loss.

“There’s no reason to point fingers," he said. "Yeah, we lost a game and it was a frustrating loss. But it’s just the fifth game of the season, so we don’t need to make a big deal out of it. We’re going to back to Boston, we’re going to work hard in practices and we’re going to get ready for the next game.”

Clearly, the fact this stuff is coming to the surface just five games into the season is a cause for concern. But it makes sense, given the way the Bruins are letting an easy portion of the season slip through their fingers.

In their first 10 games of the year, they're facing only one team that made the playoffs last season and they've got plenty of spaced-out stretches in the schedule to get off to a strong, healthy start. Instead they’re losing to subpar teams and highly unproven goalies, and doing so with a real lack of energy or purpose on the ice.

Certainly management would be smart to think about shipping underperforming players like Vatrano back to the AHL in place of Peter Cehlarik or Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson. And a few more games like Sunday’s snooze-fest could advance trade talks for a player like Matt Duchene.

But there aren’t going to be any easy answers. It comes down to hard work and hunkering down together as a team, and Sunday’s pitifully inept loss in a very winnable situation was yet another sign the Bruins aren't even close to being there yet.


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights


Spooner, McQuaid injured in Bruins' loss to Golden Knights

LAS VEGAS -- The Bruins are already missing a handful of players to injuries, and they may have lost a couple more in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

Ryan Spooner was knocked out in the second period with a lower body injury, and Adam McQuaid was lost in the closing seconds of the third period when he was hit by a Colin Miller rocket from the point in his leg. McQuaid had to be helped to the dressing room after staying down on the ice for a few long moments, and the hope is that it’s the same kind of mostly harmless “dead leg” hit that allowed Kevan Miller to bounce back immediately from his Friday incident in practice.

McQuaid was spotted up and walking around in the visiting dressing room area postgame, so hopefully it’s nothing serious with one of the few Bruins giving everything he has on the ice each and every night.

Spooner finished with just eight shifts and 6:42 of ice time while failing to generate much offense, and went 1-for-4 in the face-off circle before getting shelved for the rest of the game. He just has a single point and is a minus-3 in four games this season and is once again has been pretty hard to notice on the ice during 5-on-5 play. It perhaps wasn’t a huge loss for the Bruins, given how much Spooner has been struggling to find baseline consistency, but the Bruins can’t continue to sustain injuries to their center men without those missing bodies beginning to take a toll.

The Bruins already have Paul Postma on hand if they take any injuries on the back end, but any more losses up front could mean the B’s dip into Providence where Peter Cehlarik, Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson and Kenny Agostino are all off to hot offensive starts.