BOSTON (CBS) — Defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been a healthy scratch for the Bruins in their last two games, leading many to speculate that Boston is not happy with the 20-year-old’s performance on the ice.
But Bruins president Cam Neely says that is not the case.
“Not at all,” he told 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Felger & Mazz on Thursday when asked if Hamilton’s recent scratches are performance related. “It’s just giving us the opportunity to find out what kind of pairings we could possibly use going into the playoffs.”
Newly acquired blueliner Andrej Meszaros has taken Hamilton’s spot next to Zdeno Chara in those three games Hamilton has watched from the ninth floor, and has played well with his new team. But Neely still has plenty of confidence in Hamilton, who the Bruins drafted ninth overall in 2011.
“Dougie has been a good player for us and he’s going to continue to get better. There’s nothing to read into that at all,” said Neely. “The last thing we need is to have Dougie feel any doubts in his game. There is nothing to read into that, just seeing how Meszaros plays on the right side; getting him into games early rather than sitting him up in the press box.”
“I hate to say this because I was a forward, but being a young D in the NHL there is a bigger learning curve,” he said. “Dougie is going through that like any young D does. We’re happy with the way he’s played; everyone is going to make mistakes whether you’re a veteran or a rookie. But there is a bigger learning curve there.”
“I’m telling you, it is not performance related,” Neely said when pressed further.
After defending Hamilton, Neely was asked about the recent play of third-line center Carl Soderberg. The “One-Eyed Swede” has 12 goals and 25 assists on the season, with three of his goals coming in just seven games in March.
“I’m really impressed with the development of his game since he got here,” Neely said of Soderberg. “Early on he was getting adjusted to the rink size. You saw him at times getting backed into the boards and he didn’t realize he didn’t have the space he did over in Europe. I think his balance has gotten better, his skating has gotten better and he’s found good chemistry with (Chris) Kelly and (Loui) Eriksson.
“That’s been a fantastic line for us,” said Neely. “If we can get some good, three-zone play out of our third line it bodes well for us in the future.”
Neely also spoke on the Bruins’ big win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night: