It didn’t take long for Dougie Hamilton’s flaws to be exposed in the Eastern Conference Final.
The Carolina Hurricanes defenseman was the focal point for all the wrong reasons Thursday night in his team’s 5-2 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1. Hamilton took two penalties, both of which were turned into Bruins power-play goals, but it took just a few minutes into the first period to see how the Bruins might be able to push around their former teammate in this series.
Just under seven minutes into the first period, Boston winger Jake DeBrusk saw an opportunity as David Backes retrieved the puck along the boards in the Boston zone. Backes quickly shoveled the puck diagonally up ice, catching Hamilton out of position. The Canes D-man listlessly tried to slow the puck with his stick, a potentially dire decision.
Hamilton got spun around as he realized too late DeBrusk was flying the zone for the puck. Hamilton’s size allowed him to at least make a play for the puck, but DeBrusk easily lifted Hamilton’s stick and took off for a breakaway. Carolina goalie Petr Mrazek bailed out Hamilton with a save, but it set the tone for an ultimately awful night for Hamilton.
Sure, the penalties hurt. The first penalty — an admittedly questionable roughing call — led to Boston’s game-tying power-play goal. The second penalty was all on Hamilton, as he compounded getting caught flat-footed in the neutral zone by running over Backes below the Carolina goal line. The Hurricanes killed off that penalty, but any momentum they had been gaining was killed in the process.
But Hamilton was also sloppy in other areas. His puzzling decision to play a puck that clearly was offside led to an offensive zone faceoff for Boston in the first period. Later in the same frame, he coughed up a puck right in front of Mrazek, a careless turnover that might have hurt more had Hamilton and the Hurricanes not been saved by the bell, as time ran out in the first period as the Bruins’ fourth line pounced on the loose puck.
Obviously, the Bruins will try to impose their physical will on Carolina throughout the series. Boston is the tougher team, and is seemingly far more comfortable with that style of play. The B’s should especially be targeting Hamilton and taking the body to him whenever possible. We saw it early in Game 1 when David Pastrnak finished a check on Hamilton at center ice, and Brandon Carlo was more than willing to engage in the rough stuff with the Hurricanes blueliner after a net drive in the second period.
It’s hard to believe this play from the first round hasn’t come up a time or two in Bruins meetings, either.
Bullying Hamilton isn’t just bullying for bullying’s sake, either. The Bruins at times in Game 1 saw the strengths of the Hurricanes on full display. No team had a bigger difference between shots attempted and attempted shots allowed in the regular season. When Carolina gets the puck, it does a great job of keeping it. The Hurricanes’ defense, including Hamilton (especially Hamilton), is a big reason for that. Despite the issues and the penalty time, Hamilton still led the Hurricanes in Game 1 with seven attempted shots. So getting him out of his game could ultimately go a long way in making not only Hamilton uncomfortable but the Hurricanes as a whole, too.
So don’t be surprised if the Bruins come looking for their old friend early and often throughout this series.
Thumbnail photo via Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports Images