Editor’s Note: This was written by Rachel Murphy, who’s currently traveling Spain and making the DOY Staff feel like giant, uncultured losers (Spoiler: We are). We meant to post this yesterday, so any stats doesn’t include Dougie’s two assists last night. Follow Rachel on Twitter for more hockey and travel adventure goodness.
This season Dougie Hamilton has really found his stride and come into his own as a player. He’s making everyone want to learn how to do the Dougie whenever he impresses on the ice. Number 27 has developed into a solid and reliable defender for the Bruins and is playing less and less like a 20-year-old rookie.
Tuesday night, Tuukka Rask handed the player of the game jacket off to Hamilton. In game 3 against the Red Wings, Hamilton posted a 16:03 time on ice and registered his first ever career playoff goal about nine minutes into the first period on the power play. He played over a minute of a half on the ice during the Bruins penalty kill as well. It was his goal that opened the scoring for the Bruins and they didn’t look back once. Jordan Caron later followed the suit as he too also buried his first career goal in the playoffs.
It was clear to see that Hamilton’s confidence had bloomed following his goal. He dazzled and flourished up and down the ice as he moved up to take shots during the power play Bobby Orr style. He dinged the post, making Bruins fans groan and wish that the post were more on their side at the moment. But the thing about Dougie is that both his blooming confidence and his skill level have been improving all season long.
This is not a new trend. Throughout the entire season he has really improved as a player. It was following the injuries to veteran blueliners Dennis Seidenberg and Adam McQuaid when he had to learn how to step up and develop a new role. The kid was no longer a rookie, he had a big responsibility.
The injuries were gaping holes for the Bruins and most everyone looking in from the outside saw them as disastrous. But the Bruins knew better. They knew better than counting themselves out when they had barely even gotten started. They knew what they were made of as a team and simply realized that they had to buckle down and play their game. The Bruins did just that. They came together and didn’t let the injuries destroy them. If anything the injuries fueled them, as they powered forward to become the best team in the league during the regular season.
Then the going got tough, the Bruins did what the Bruins do. The baby blueliners stepped up and filled the gaps. All four lines were gelling. Players such as Hamilton, Krug, and Miller had been handed bigger roles and embraced them. This has also allowed for Chara not to skate as many taxing minutes in a game as he once was used to. It’s permitted for Chara to get a bit of rest and insured that he is ready for the heavy playoff schedule. The baby blueliners have made it so that Chara averages around five minutes less than what he was used to skating during the playoffs last year.
During the 2013-2014 regular season, Dougie scored 7 goals and had 18 assists. He was a 22 plus/minus player in the 64 games he played in this season. He finished the regular season with 25 points. In his rookie season, he played in 42 games and only tallied 5 goals with 11 assists. He was just a plus 4 player during his rookie year. The numbers may not have been leaps and bounds of an improvement, but they were an improvement. Hamilton’s game on the ice and what isn’t reflected onto the scorecards is what has made a world of a difference.
Dougie has now exhibited that he has developed a deep understanding of the game. He is playing better, bigger, and smarter. He is not green around the edges as he was when he first arrived in the NHL. He is now heavily relied upon. He makes less and less mistakes and turns good plays. Because of all of this, he has developed into a reliable and solid defender. He understands what is needed of him and has rose up recently to meet those expectations. His teammates are noticing the improvements in his play as well. Claude Julien has given him more and more time on ice as he’s become solider. This action shows just how Julien has come to trust and rely on the young 20 year old. He has been pushed to up his game and done just that.
As Hamilton grows into his own as a player, the Bruins have become deeper as a team. He was one of the four players on the Bruins who have scored their first NHL playoff goal during this series. Dougie Hamilton has a lot more potential and definitely has not reached his peak. He is going to continue to improve as a player as he plays more and more hockey at the NHL level.
Hamilton has become a key defender in the Bruins lineup and contributed with a big goal during game 3. It is crucial for Hamilton and the rest of the blueliners to keep it up and continue to force their opponents to play the Bruins’ style of play. If players like Hamilton are able to continue this way of play and can stay healthy, the Bruins will be insured a deep playoff run.