WILMINGTON, Mass. — Dougie Hamilton has assumed a larger role with Zdeno Chara out of commission, and despite the small sample size (two games), the signs have been encouraging.
The 21-year-old Boston Bruins defenseman played a career-high 28:32 of ice time in Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden. That includes 2:41 of power-play and 2:24 of short-handed ice time.
“I felt good, so I was happy I was playing a lot,” Hamilton said. “I think, like I’ve said before, I play better when I play more and you’re into the game more and you’re not sitting on the bench waiting for your shift. I felt good and enjoyed it. It’s just unfortunate that we had the third period that we had.”
Hamilton has been a quality puck-possession player with a 55.17 Corsi-for percentage at 5-on-5 even strength despite starting just 40 percent of his shifts in the attacking zone. The former first-round draft pick also has three points (one goal, two assists), six shots on goal and only one penalty taken with Chara out of the lineup.
From a defensive standpoint, Hamilton also has impressed. He’s playing a more physical game, rarely is out of position and is using his long reach to break up passes. His two-way game is steadily developing, and that’s an positive sign for the Bruins. It usually takes defensemen several seasons to be able to handle a top-pairing role and defend opponents’ top lines, but Hamilton is capable of succeeding in this position with just 117 games of NHL experience.
“I think it’s nice to have a guy like that come in — well come in, (Hamilton has) been in here for a while now,” said Dennis Seidenberg, who’s on the top pairing with Hamilton. “He’s just a workhorse. He logs a lot of minutes, he can skate, he moves the puck up there, he’s got a good shot, and it’s good to have a guy like that. We always knew he could do it, and now he has to do it.”
Hamilton likely will replace Chara as the Bruins’ top defenseman at some point in the future, but that won’t be this season. Even though he has great size, offensive skill, and an improving defensive game, Hamilton shouldn’t put too much pressure on himself while the captain is sidelined.
“Yeah that’s exactly what I am trying to do, so not do too much and that’s when you get in trouble,” Hamilton said. “Just try to play simple and have our whole unit make up for (Chara) because it’s impossible for one of us, so I thought we were OK (Tuesday night) until, I guess, just the goals, and I don’t think we gave up too much other than that. Like I said, I thought we played OK, so just frustrating that we had those breakdowns.”
Photo via Timothy T. Ludwig/USA TODAY Sports Images