Dougie Hamilton showed why he has the potential to be a franchise defenseman in the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 Game 3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday night.
Dougie Hamilton earns the Player of the Game Jacket, passed on from Tuukka ^CS—
Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) April 23, 2014
The 20-year-old blueliner opened the scoring with a sensational goal (the first of his postseason career) during a first-period power play. After getting possession of the puck in the neutral zone, he used his superior skating and stick-handling ability to enter the attacking zone with multiple Red Wings around him. He then fired an incredible wrist shot that beat Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard over the glove in the top right corner of the net.
“It was huge,” Brad Marchand told reporters when asked if Hamilton’s goal calmed the team down. “The crowd was fired up and they were going pretty crazy. Detroit could take a lot of momentum from that. Dougie’s goal did a great job of calming everyone down and allowing us to just play our game.”
From a defensive standpoint, Hamilton was equally impressive. He was well-positioned in his own zone and kept Detroit’s forwards to the outside. The Ontario native also impressed in 1:52 of ice time on the penalty kill, a unit that was a perfect 3-for-3 on the night. Hamilton started 42.9 percent of his shifts in the defensive zone, which is well above his regular-season mark of 30.3 percent. This shows that he’s earning more trust from the coaching staff in defensive situations.
One of the more noticeable differences in Hamilton’s game over the last few weeks has been his confidence and poise with the puck. He’s slowing the game down and playing with more patience, which is eliminating some of the giveaways and mistakes we saw in his rookie season.
In Game 3, he was assertive with the puck, forced turnovers with good anticipation and was engaged physically with big hits and winning puck battles along the boards.
Hamilton was Boston’s best possession player Tuesday night with a corsi-for percentage of 66.7 in 16:07 of ice time. The Bruins averaged 18.3 percent more shots when he was on the ice, and his accurate passes out of the defensive zone helped the B’s evade the Red Wings’ forecheck and start the rush up ice. This puck movement was crucial to Boston getting through a condensed neutral zone and creating scoring chances.
Ever since Hamilton was a healthy scratch in March, he’s played much better at both ends of the ice. As a result, his confidence is steadily growing.
Hamilton didn’t play much past the first round of last year’s playoffs when veterans Dennis Seidenberg and Andrew Ference returned for Round 2. That shouldn’t be the case this season because of his improvement defensively and his contributions on special teams. Hamilton has become an important part of Boston’s blue line as a well-rounded player who head coach Claude Julien can use in any situation.
The Bruins will attempt to take a 3-1 series lead Thursday night in Detroit.
Photo via Twitter/@mkmolnar