BOSTON (CBS) – Congratulations Matt Bartkowski.
You just matched your career high by playing nine consecutive NHL games.
You held your own with three assists and a plus-5 rating (if you take out the minus-2 hung on you during the 6-1 nightmare at Joe Louis Arena the entire Bruins team endured last Wednesday) over that stretch of games.
Your reward for your efforts, 25-year-old Matt Bartkowski: your spot in the press box back.
Bartkowski had been a healthy scratch for nine of 10 Bruins games prior to Adam McQuaid, and then Dennis Seidenberg, getting injured. Of the Bruins’ 27 games, Bartkowski has played in less than half (13) after he didn’t suit up against Columbus on Saturday. His competitive nature obviously makes him disappointed to be the odd man out. But don’t for a second think he’s looking to vent his frustrations on some poor soul in or out of the Bruins’ dressing room.
“It’s hard. But honestly, I’ve said it a million times, I can’t let it bother me,” Bartkowski said after the morning skate Saturday. “And honestly I don’t. I mean I don’t go home and call mom and cry or anything like that. I don’t let it bother me. The only thing I can do is prove myself when I play. And that’s about it.”
Bartkowski loves that the Bruins are in first place. He enjoys being around his teammates, whether he’s playing or not. The Bruins defense corps features players from four different countries and players of various ages, yet you can tell that their corner of the Garden dressing is a frat (toned-down, of course, because there’s only so much lightheartedness captain Zdeno Chara will tolerate).
And it’s also slightly easier for Bartkowski to accept his lot in life because he’s moved up the pro hockey caste system. Players typically go from prospect to part-time NHLer to full-time. Bartkowski has made the leap in his fourth full pro season. He doesn’t want to completely admit it, for fear someone might think he’s taking his spot for granted or for worry he might get a big head and stunt his improvement.
Injuries opened the door for Bartkowski’s most recent stint in the lineup. He doesn’t necessarily have to wait for someone else to go down, however, to get back in the lineup.
“So if he catches on and forces somebody else to go out, that’s fine,” Bruins coach Claude Julien said. “And right now, to be honest with you, he was the guy of the seven that we felt still needs to work on his game a little bit and he has to continue to work on that.”
You don’t have to tell Bartkowski twice that there’s room for improvement. When told that he probably did enough during his most recent stretch of games to merit a full-time spot, he didn’t bask in the glory of the compliment.
“I don’t know. I hold pretty high expectations. I guess when I played, I … it’s difficult. I’m generally pretty hard on myself,” he said. “Even the smallest mistake … if it’s not a perfect game, it’s not good enough. And you’re never going to have a perfect game, so there’s always something you can work on. But I don’t know, I think I’ve played OK. That first game, it was a little rough, but once I got back into it I started skating and using my assets. So it went all right.”
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com and also contributes to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @TheBruinsBlog.
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