TAMPA — Up until Thursday night, the kids had been the ones to sit out. First it was Matt Bartkowski, then Dougie Hamilton. But against the Panthers, Bruins coach Claude Julien decided that it would be Adam McQuaid’s turn, a demonstration that the defensive rotation is likely to be based on the team’s needs — offense or defense — at that particular moment.
Over the last few games, the Bruins have been struggling with their offensive finish and on the power play. Enter Hamilton, who helped fix both, netting a power-play goal through traffic in the 3-2 win over Florida.
“It’s a good point, because the fact is with those guys in the lineup we wanted to see how well our transition game was going to go,” Julien said. “You saw that against the Rangers [in the playoffs]. Those young guys came in and skated well, but yet where we suffered a little bit was defensively.
“When you’ve got a guy like Adam McQuaid who’s pretty solid defensively, those guys aren’t as good as he is on the defensive side of it. It’s a situation where you kind of weigh the pros and cons and make those decisions as you go game to game.”
It also helps with motivation.
Hamilton acknowledged having “a lot of excitement and adrenaline in the first period just being back” after sitting out the two previous games. He channeled that into his first goal of the season, ending the Bruins’ 0-for-12 drought on the power play.
“It was nice to get a power-play goal,” said Hamilton. “I don’t think it’s something that’s going to keep me in the lineup. I think just my whole play and just trying to play a two-way game [will].”
He knows, in the end, whether he plays or sits out might not have much to do with how he’s going at a particular time. That, at least, takes away a bit of the pressure to be perfect every moment that he is on the ice.
“I don’t think you really have to worry about ‘playing bad and you’re going to be out’ kind of thing,” Hamilton said. “I thought I played well in the first three games. They were telling me I was playing well. You obviously want to play, but you understand the situation and you just have to be ready for when you’re called.”
Step back for Marchand
After seeing an uptick in his game against Detroit once he was shifted to the third line, Brad Marchand struggled again Thursday. There were the same miscues, bad losses of the puck at bad moments, and it’s clear that something needs to change for the winger.
“For the most part, it goes back to the player,” Julien said. “I think right now it’s not lack of ice time. It’s not lack of anything. A player has to find his game and sometimes you’ve just got to work through it. Some guys take longer than others. Some guys find it quickly.”
Julien said he thought Marchand, who has one goal in six games, played “a really good game” against the Red Wings Monday, but then “he went back to some of his old habits that have gotten him in trouble and taken him away from his game.”
Julien added, “I don’t want excuses, I don’t want reasons. As a coach, you want results, and I think it’s up to a player, too. We’re coaches, we can’t do everything. A player has to take charge of his situation as well, and that’s what Brad’s got to do right now.”
That may have to come through Marchand returning to his irritating, pesky ways. Though he tempered that in light of his five-game suspension for a hit on Sami Salo in January 2012, that might not have been the best thing for his game.
“Maybe I have to get back to doing that a little bit more,” he said. “Taking that out of my game might be the wrong approach.
“That’s what kind of lights a fire under my butt and maybe I have to get back to that.”
Julien said part of the team’s issues at the moment might have come from not being focused enough and possibly from becoming complacent.
“Every year we should be starting from scratch and proving that we belong in the playoffs and working ourselves in the playoffs before you can even say we’ve been to the Finals two of the last three years,” he said.
“That’s history. You’ve got to live in the present. You can’t live in the past. You can’t live in the future, either. You’ve got to build on what you have in front of you at this time. I think that’s where we’ve got to refocus again.”
The coach saw a little of the complacency in Thursday’s game against Florida, when the Bruins let up a bit after going up by two goals on Tim Thomas.
“That’s getting comfortable,” Julien said. “We’ve got to kind of try to hold our game and keep our game going for 60 minutes no matter what the score is, and there’s times where our team struggled, did the same thing last year. We struggled with keeping the lead and so it’s something that we’ve got to work on. That’s more mental than it is physical.”
Day off for Caron
Jordan Caron was the only Bruin not present for practice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Friday. Julien said it was a maintenance day for the winger, who is expected back on the ice Saturday . . . Carl Soderberg has been cleared medically and could play as soon as Saturday against the Lightning. “There’s a good chance that he will be [in],” Julien said. “He’s been cleared, so now it’s up to me to make a decision.” . . . The Bruins, because of their schedule, are looking up at most of the Atlantic Division. They’re tied for fifth, but have played the fewest games.Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @amaliebenjamin.