Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski may be playing the role of “goat” this morning after his two mildly controversial penalties in Game 1 against the Canadiens on Thursday night led directly to a pair of P.K. Subban goals, including the decisive strike early in the second overtime for a 4-3 final.
Truth be told, it wasn’t all the young blue-liner’s fault. His first penalty, a tripping call midway through the first period, could have just as easily been called a dive on Dale Weise. His second, a hold at 4:10 of the second extra session, was borderline as Bartkowski fought for position before throwing down Weise (again).
On top of that, Boston’s energy and intensity came in waves early in the contest, and Montreal goaltender Carey Price was nothing short of sensational with 48 saves as part of a 51-shot B’s barrage.
All of that said, there are no excuses. Certainly not from Bruins coach Claude Julien, who felt both penalties called on his defenseman were legit. And, so, as Bartkowski so appropriately put it after the game, “the result sucks.”
As a result, a change should be made in time for Saturday afternoon’s Game 2 of the conference semifinals series.
Bartkowski’s rough night – in which he skated 37 shifts for 26:26 – had folks on Twitter following the loss begging for trade deadline depth acquisition Andrej Meszaros. Some were so down over the defeat, they were open to a one-legged Dennis Seidenberg.
In his second NHL postseason, Bartkowski has appeared in four of Boston’s six games, seeing nearly 23 minutes of ice-time a contest. He’s been held without a point (not that his game is driven by offense) and he’s posted a plus-one rating. Of course, that number can be somewhat skewed since special teams goals don’t alter plus/minus.
Meszaros is also a plus-one in his two contests thus far, both versus the Red Wings in round one when he averaged just more than 18 minutes of ice-time. He played alongside Johnny Boychuk because Bartkowski was out with a nasty gastrointestinal virus. The still relatively new Bruin and perceived extra defenseman wasn’t fantastic in either game, but he was part of a unit that held the Wings to two goals in a split decision. Meszaros was also the same guy battling Bartkowski for the team’s last available defensive spot entering the playoffs.
Bartkowski’s poor night doesn’t suddenly mean he should be stripped of his job outright. There’s no suggestion here he be banished to the Garden’s ninth level, never to be seen again in this series or beyond should his team advance.
But one game to take a step back, clear his head, and give another hungry player an opportunity wouldn’t be the worst decision on the part of Julien. There’s a fine line, I recognize, between giving a player a day to regroup and that move being interpreted as a lack of confidence, but these guys are professionals. They’re all well aware that when you get a chance you have to seize it, or you may be left behind.
The Bruins are in the same position they were a round earlier, down 1-0 in the series with a pseudo must-win to come before hitting the road. Last time, Boston reeled off four straight wins. No one expects Montreal to go down the same way.
A minor tweak to the lineup, substituting Meszaros for the admittedly faster Bartkowski, might not prove the difference and it could seem hasty. But, after Thursday night, wouldn’t you be willing to find out?
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