Bruins

Jaffe On Toucher & Rich: Bartkowski Should Win Final Defensive Spot

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Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Boston Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — For the first time in 16 games, the Boston Bruins didn’t earn a point Wednesday night in Detroit.

The Bruins took a 2-1 lead over the Red Wings early in the third but let that slip away, as Detroit scored a pair of goals in a two-minute span in the middle of the period. Following the game it was off to Toronto for the Bruins, as they’ll take on the Maple Leafs in the second half of a back-to-back.

With just six games remaining until the playoffs, we’ll likely start to see a few of the veteran B’s get some rest. Bruins analyst Billy Jaffe joined 98.5 The Sports Hub’s Toucher & Rich in studio on Thursday morning, and expects Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron and other vets to get some extended rest over the next week.

“There are so many regulars that shouldn’t play in the back-to-back right now. The Bruins have 110 points and just need one or two more points to clinch the East,” explained Jaffe.

“They manage their players pretty darn well, so a lot of the guys had the Olympic break off and they also get days off during the season,” he said. “A lot of the guys will continue to play, but Chara, Bergeron, Iginla [should get some rest].”

“You can play the younger guys on D a little more and continue to keep that competition going, but you want to rest Chara and Boychuk,” said Jaffe. “There are six or seven guys you want to manage, and give them a three day break.”

Jaffe also touched on the battle on the Boston blue line. Matt Bartkowski and Andrej Meszaros are competing for the final defensive spot in the playoffs, and Jaffe thinks it will ultimately go to Bartkowski.

“Bartkowski is not a young player in the sense he’s not 21, but he’s still a young player in the NHL. His consistency level is the key. We all know how well he takes ice and we talk about how beautiful Dougie Hamilton skates and the movement Torey Krug brings to the power play. Bartkowski can be the best of the young guys at alleviating pressure in a certain situation because of how quickly he takes two or three strides and explodes out of it.”

“His issue becomes his gap control and his reads. He is still a young player when it comes to NHL experience, so because of that we’ll see some inconsistency,” Jaffe said of Bartkowski. “But because the Bruins are so good we live in a world where ‘we can’t take mistakes.'”

Jaffe still likes the deadline addition of Meszaros, and says the veteran is playing with a purpose, and may end up helping if the Boston blue line suffers an injury.

“He is playing for a purpose; he wants to prove to people out there that he isn’t a washed-up defenseman. It’s a nice one to have in the holster,” said Jaffe. “He can play both left and right sides…. He punches the puck through well, meaning he doesn’t waste a lot of time with a windup. He’s not afraid to shoot and he encourages that part of the game. He’ll play with a little more reckless abandon; he’ll go at you in different ways. “

As for Thursday night’s matchup, Jaffe says the Maple Leafs are still afraid of the Bruins following last year’s playoff series.

“Toronto fears Boston, they do,” he said. “So they should be ready to play and the Bruins will bring their great, business-like approach.”

You can hear Thursday night’s Bruins-Maple Leafs game on 98.5 The Sports Hub — the flagship station of the Boston Bruins.

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