The Boston Bruins have STOLEN - I mean, called up Matt Bartkowski from the Providence Bruins. Evidently, Bruins management has forgotten, like the rest of us fans, that Aaron Johnson exists. And like I did earlier today, also forgot Dougie Hamilton is there too.
The reason for Bartkowski's call up isn't known at this point, but I can say with confidence that it is well-deserved. If the Bruins see him as a more valuable defenseman at this point than Johnson or Hamilton, it's not surprising, especially given his performance in the recent five-game first-round victory over the Hershey Bears.
Before I praise him, I'd like to express my rage at having him ripped out of Providence's impending series. THEY'RE PLAYING THE BABY PENGUINS IN ROUND TWO. COME ON, IGINLA JOKES GALORE WERE TO BE MADE. Now I'm sad because I can't make those jokes and also because half of Providence's best defensive duo is now gone.
Bartkowski was paired with Kevan Miller for the last three games of the Hershey series. Miller was injured for the first two games, which are the only two games Providence lost. Bartkowski was paired with Tommy Cross in games one and two, and although he played well in those games, he and Miller were an extremely strong and effective defensive pairing.
As the series went forth and Providence was winning, Bartkowski showed more and more dominance. Being paired with Miller allowed Bartkowski to feel more comfortable to jump into the play and pinch from the point.
I'm gonna make a bit of a crazy comparison here, but let's just go with it. Game four in the Hershey/Providence series was a 5-4 Providence win in which Carter Camper capped off his hat trick with the game-winning goal in the final minute of the game. When David Krejci scored the overtime winner against the Leafs in game three, I thought of this. Camper is no Krejci, obviously. I would never imply that he was, although Krejci spent a season or two in Providence before making the jump to Boston years and years ago, just to remind everyone that the AHL produces awesome players.
Anyway, Zdeno Chara had four assists in that game as well. In game four in the P-Bruins series, Bartkowski made a statement with his play and it showed on the scoresheet with three assists. In the five-game series, Bartkowski saw significant minutes, and in every situation - power play, penalty kill, protecting the lead in the final minute of the series with the one-goal lead...and those are important things to note when considering how he will react when being brought back up to Boston. He didn't have that benefit last year, because Providence didn't make the playoffs.
The series-clinching goal was scored by Jamie Tardif in Providence on Wednesday night. It was assisted by Miller and Bartkowski. He finished the series with 5 assists, a +4 rating, and 13 shots on goal. He had the most points of any Providence defenseman - way more than Torey Krug, by the way. Bartkowski and Miller were just a fantastic pair in the three games they played together.
Bartkowski had a huge series. As a Providence fan, I am upset that the team will lose one of it's most valuable assets on defense. But I understand why Boston called him up. He earned it, and although he won't be as good as whoever he may be replacing in the current Bruins defense lineup, he could be just as effective.