Dougie Hamilton is trying to show improvement in all areas of his game. (Getty Images)
Dougie Hamilton is receiving praise left and right for what some might call a breakout* performance against the Maple Leafs, but it was his response to the low moment of his three-point game that might be the biggest takeaway.
Hamilton was the last line of defense as the Bruins, stuck in their zone, surrendered the Leafs’ lone goal of the game in the third period. The man Hamilton was covering, Richard Panik, scored with the Bruins scrambling during a delayed penalty to break up Tuukka Rask‘s shutout. Rask could be seen barking at Hamilton after the goal.
On Hamilton’s next shift, James van Riemsdyk went to the net and Hamilton manhandled him on a play that resulted in matching roughing minors. Intentionally or not, it was a good sign that Hamilton, a 6-foot-5 third-year player with no fighting majors to his name, does not want to be taken lightly around his net. Furthermore, it was a response Rask was happy to see.
“That’s what you have to do; you have do hold your ground and not let those guys get in there,” Rask said. “That’s exactly what he did. As long as it’s an even call, that’s alright.”
Shifts are usually around 45-50 seconds, sometimes more and sometimes less. Hamilton ended up being stuck on the ice for 1:37 on the shift that cost Rask what would have been his shutout of the season. During a delayed penalty call on Daniel Paille for tripping Panik, Rask had to face three shots from three different angles. A point shot squirted into the corner and was retrieved by Nazem Kadri, whose cross-ice pass to Cody Franson yielded another shot stopped by Rask. Tyler Bozak whacked the rebound across the net to Panik, who jammed it past both Rask and Hamilton, the latter of whom had been covering Panik but retreated into the net amidst the chaos.
“It was definitely my fault,” Hamilton said of the goal. “I was gassed and trying to playing to goalie, obviously with the shutout on the line. I apologized to him.”
Rask said Tuesday that though he reacted vocally, he didn’t mean to chew Hamilton out any more than he intended to express frustration with the overall work in front of him on the shift.
Hamilton said that on his next shift, he felt he had to “refocus and make sure I was being strong.” That ended up being subpar news for van Riemsdyk, who became the focal point of Hamilton’s aggression.
Rask wants and expects the defensemen in front of him to box players out and make them pay a price if they want to get close to the net. When that doesn’t happen, he isn’t afraid to tell them. That isn’t such a bad thing.
With Zdeno Chara out for at least a few more weeks, other players need to provide the physical presence and intimidation factor around the net. Rask will be happy to see more of that from Hamilton as he continues to round into a top defender.
“He obviously wants to be one of the best defensemen in the league, and that’s something he has to get better at, is the defensive side of his game,” Rask said. “He’s really picked up on that and gotten better, so I like it.”
*Hamilton broke out last season.