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The Boston Bruins' blue line was thought to be an area of weakness going into their second-round series with the New York Rangers since three veteran defensemen are dealing with injuries serious enough to keep them out of the lineup.
Dennis Seidenberg, Andrew Ference and Wade Redden, who have 274 games of playoff experience combined, have not been able to play in this series. Bruins head coach Claude Julien has been forced to put rookies Torey Krug, Dougie Hamilton and Matt Bartkowski (pictured) in the lineup, and these young players have exceeded expectations.
"I think it’s exciting for our guys to see some young players come in and contribute the way they have," said Julien after Game 2.
"When you look a [Torey] Krug, he’s playing against their third line a lot of times, which is [Brian] Boyle, and [Taylor] Pyatt, and [Derek] Dorsett, which are all heavy players and he’s handled himself extremely well. [Matt] Bartkowski’s playing against their top lines every once in a while, that [Rick] Nash line, but more so against [Derek] Stepan, [Carl] Hagelin and [Ryan] Callahan. But he’s done a good job. Those young guys have done a great job, and what can you say about [Dougie] Hamilton? Most of the time he’s out there against [Rick] Nash, with Zdeno [Chara]."
In the last four games, Krug became the fourth player in Bruins history to score goals in his first two playoff games, Bartkowski scored his first career NHL goal in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs and Hamilton has tallied two points with impressive work on the power play.
These young blueliners have improved the Bruins' transition game with their great puck-moving skills, impressive skating ability and the confidence they display with the puck on the blade of their stick.
One of the big reasons the Bruins have gotten 11 goals from defensemen in the postseason (most of any team) is that these rookies are willing to shoot the puck when the opportunity is there. Krug, Hamilton and Bartkowski have combined for 19 shots in the last four games.