BOSTON (CBS) — The Bruins are on a roll, winners of 10 straight games and owners of the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, but that doesn’t mean head coach Claude Julien is entirely happy.
Following Monday night’s thorough 4-1 win over Minnesota, Julien spoke to the media and said his team allowed “too many breakaways or good scoring chances, and we have to fix that.” He also added, “We’re young back there [on defense] and there’s still some things guys need to learn.”
He made it clear on Tuesday that his words carried weight, electing to make Matt Bartkowski a healthy scratch in New Jersey and inserting the recently acquired Corey Potter into the lineup.
“I thought [Bartkowski] really struggled in the last game. They’re young players, but at the same time I want them to learn that they have to work hard to be consistent every game,” Julien said after Tuesday’s win over the Devils, according to CSNNE’s Joe Haggerty. “I don’t want any of those guys to assume that they’ve got a spot wrapped up on the back end. I don’t want them to think it’s going to be automatic no matter how they play. It’s a message that I think helps a guy grow as a pro.”
Bartkowski, 25, ranks fourth among Bruins defensemen with 53 games played this season, trailing Zdeno Chara (66), Torey Krug (68) and Johnny Boychuk (63). Dougie Hamilton (51 games played) recently found himself watching a pair of games from the press box, and Krug spent the night on Level 9 during last week’s Bruins win over Phoenix.
Despite Bartkowski’s steady play, it was a mistake on Monday night that cost him this week. Bartkowski got caught creeping deep into the offensive zone after a faceoff, giving Jason Pominville a clear 140-foot path to the Bruins’ net. Pominville burst past Andrej Meszaros, who was covering for Bartkowski, and scored to cut the Bruins’ lead in half late in the second period.
It wasn’t Bartkowski’s only misplay of the night, but it stood out the most, and Julien made it clear on Tuesday that despite the run of success the team is having, there is always room for improvement.
Just last week, Bartkowski admitted to The Boston Globe that the uncertainty of being made a healthy scratch earlier in the year affected his confidence and level of play.
“As much as you say you can’t let it creep into your mind, I think that almost everyone does at some point or another,” Bartkowski told Amalie Benjamin. “What’s going to happen tomorrow? Did I play well enough last night? You know when you play well, [and] you know what you have to do. It’s just that uncertainty.”
With Johnny Boychuk likely to return to the lineup this weekend, and with Adam McQuaid still a possibility to return before the end of the season, the competition on the back end is sure to only intensify. Every D-man not named Zdeno or Johnny knows he’ll have to be his very best for every shift, lest another night in the press box will be in store.
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