Or maybe that confidence just comes with experience.
Hamilton broke a scoreless tie when he got the Bruins on the board 3 1/2 minutes into the second period of an eventual 3-1 win over Detroit at Joe Louis Arena on Saturday. The 21-year-old defenseman — who tallied three points in two postseason games at the Joe last April — was back at it again on Saturday, carrying the puck across the offensive blue line and powering through two defenders before beating Jonas Gustavsson to put Boston up 1-0.
“I just skated it in, tried to make a play and they didn’t come at me, so just slid it five hole, luckily,” Hamilton said after the game. “Obviously it felt good to score that.”
Saturday’s performance served as further evidence of Hamilton’s growing confidence, and that much was obvious to Head Coach Claude Julien.
“I think, again, the games he’s playing in the preseason have been really good games,” Julien said. “So it’s exciting to see a young player like that finding his confidence, and not just in the playmaking department, but also in the strength and physical part of it. He’s playing with a lot of confidence right now, and it’s showing. Where we project him to be — he’s on the right track right now.”
Hamilton can see the change in himself, too. The difference in his confidence level right now, as compared to this time last year, is massive.
“I feel good right now," he said. "I’m happy with how I did over the summer and the improvements I made. I think my speed is a lot better, and I’m confident and stronger, and I think it’s going to help me. I can already feel it, so just [need] to keep playing and working on things and keep improving.”
Midway through the second period, Detroit evened the score with a shorthanded tally, courtesy of Landon Ferraro, who fired a shot that took a bad bounce off the glove of Tuukka Rask.
Rask played two periods, making 14 stops on 15 shots before ceding to Jeremy Smith, who held the Red Wings scoreless in the final period.
Camp invite Ville Leino came up with the eventual game-winner with just under five minutes remaining in the game, while Brad Marchand cashed in with an empty-netter with 46 seconds left to play.
“Every time you see the puck go in, you feel better and you feel more confident,” Leino said. “We had a lot of chances. Usually, when you get a lot of chances, one of them is going to go in.”
On Saturday morning, Milan Lucic -- who underwent surgery on his left wrist over the summer following an injury suffered during the postseason -- was cleared to play in his first preseason game of the year. After the pregame skate, he reiterated his eagerness to get in a game to get his timing and his legs back, but once the puck dropped, he got off to a bit of a rocky start, as he was whistled for three penalties.
The first came eight minutes into the first period, after Zdeno Chara took exception to a hit along the boards by Mitch Callahan. As play continued after the hit, both Lucic and Chris Kelly were sent to the box for slashing and kneeing, respectively.
Lucic also went to the box for high sticking at the end of the first and for interference about eight minutes into the third.
“It is what it is, but [I] definitely know what it’s like now to be back in a game and stuff like that, so you know a lot of the areas where you can improve, kind of get your legs back and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “So hopefully I can get in all of the last preseason games here to get my game back and feel comfortable with the puck and everything, but I felt like I got a little better near the end the last couple of days. Definitely got to figure it out sooner than later here.”
Despite the challenges, Lucic was glad he had the opportunity to reacquaint himself with the pace of an NHL game, particularly against a team like Detroit that is built on speed and skill.
“That’s the important part about preseason, is getting the feel of the speed of the game, and getting your legs under you, and getting them moving, and knowing where you are on the ice,” he said. “[It’s about] getting back into form, where you know you can keep up with the pace and even push the pace.
“So that’s why I said it would be nice to get in these last preseason games: so I can progress before the season starts.”