Claude Julien Praises Matt Bartkowski’s Growth Both On and Off Ice in ‘Unique Situation’

Matt BartkowskiIt’s been an interesting spring for Matt Bartkowski.

The Bruins defenseman is not yet a month removed from being recalled from Providence and being inserted right into the Boston lineup during the Stanley Cup playoffs. In that near-month since being recalled, Bartkowski has played an instrumental part in helping reinforce a Boston defense corps that has been banged up.

After playing just 6:40 of Game 5 in the Toronto series, Bartkowski was scratched for Game 6. He then returned to the lineup for Game 7 where he scored his first career NHL goal and logged 24:51 of ice time in the Bruins’ miraculous Game 7 comeback win. He then logged big minutes in the New York series, proving to be an essential “fill-in” for lack of a better term as the B’s dispatched the Rangers in five games.

That high was short-lived for Bartkowski, however. He was sent back to the press box for Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final against Pittsburgh, the same team he grew up rooting for as a kid in Pennsylvania. The return of Andrew Ference, as well as the offensive versatility fellow rookie Torey Krug brings, left Bartkowski as the odd man out.

To say it’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Bartkowski would probably be an understatement, but the blue liner’s ability and attitude continue to impress Claude Julien, even after the Bruins head coach made the decision to sit Bartkowski in favor of the veteran Ference.

“Matt has grown immensely on and off the ice,” Julien told reporters at his post-morning skate news conference in advance of Game 2 on Monday. “His approach right now is, all he wants is for our team to win. If he’s not in, he’s going to be supportive of his teammates. At the same time, he’s going to be ready when his name is called.”

It’s been an odd season for Bartkowski. He was up and down between Boston and Providence, and he also appeared to be ready to change organizations. The 24-year-old was set to be one of the main pieces in a trade that would have brought Jarome Iginla to Boston before that fell apart, landing Iginla in Pittsburgh.

Bartkowski responded as well as could have been hoped for, and he’s proved that he could be a valuable piece for the Bruins moving forward. For now, however, it’s all about the task at hand, which is helping the Bruins win, whether that’s on or off the ice.

“He’s been great especially in this unique situation,” Julien added. “There’s no doubt it’s gotta hurt a little bit, but he’s able to put priorities first and he’s thinking about our team right now.”

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