Boston, MA -
Sometimes you’ll hear people say, “The less you notice a defenseman, the better he is playing.” But perhaps it might be better to say that the more uneventful a defenseman’s night becomes, the better for him and the team.
In almost 10-minutes of action, following nine games of watching from the pressbox, Matt Hunwick played a strong, consistent and seamless (read that uneventful) game on the Bruins blueline and garnered praise from his coach, Claude Julien.
“I can back it up to last year where I thought (young players) were a big key to helping us attain the playoffs, because everybody we called up – and I think at one point I counted eight different guys that were called up last year – not one of them looked out of place,” said Julien when asked about the performance of the players who played in the AHL last season.
"The players coming in did a great job, and again, we have some of those guys this year graduating. Guys like…(Matt) Hunwick.
“He did well (against Toronto).
“You have to remember, when a guy doesn’t play for a long time, it’s not an easy situation to jump in and when he was in there he did a good job, and we were pretty satisfied with his effort tonight,” he said.
It sounds as if Hunwick, who stepped in for veteran blueliner Shane Hnidy, just stuck to his game plan.
“There’s obviously a different mindset,” said Hunwick after Thursday’s morning pregame skate. “In practice, you try to battle as hard as you can, but at the same time, it’s your own teammates, so you don’t want to hurt anyone.
“I’ll have to get back to being physical, and just getting the timing down will be the biggest thing (and) it’s good we had a couple practices here the past two days to kind of get back in the flow of game speed.
“I think I’ll just keep the play simple and consistent shift to shift. I want to be a player who can be trusted out on the ice, and for that to happen, I have to be good every shift I go out, and that’s something I’ll focus on…especially coming back after a little bit of a layoff.”
After the game, a relieved and surprisingly fresh looking Hunwick spoke about his experience.
“It wasn’t too bad, surprisingly,” he said. “Once I got my feet under myself out there, and was able to make a couple of good passes, I think I felt a lot more comfortable.
“It’s a funny thing when you are playing these games, with the penalties and the power plays we had, you kind of get out of sync (even) within the game, so just staying focused was my main priority going out there today.”
The former Michigan Wolverine said that the Leafs came as advertised.
“They never back down and never give up,” said Hunwick. “They were all over us and their ‘D’ were pinching a lot.
“They put us in situations where we had to make smart and safe plays and lucky enough for us, tonight, we got the win.”
Forward Blake Wheeler came as advertised, as well, and Hunwick had a pretty good seat to see his hat trick heroics.
"But the former collegiate rivals had run into each other a couple times before.
“Yah I did (face Wheeler),” said Hunwick of his former opponent from the University of Minnesota. “He would have been a senior this year, so probably his freshman year.”
Like everyone, Hunwick was thrilled to see Wheeler’s hat trick – and be on the right side of it.
“I think it’s good for the team when a young guy is able to go out and help the team win, especially early in the season,” he said. “Not only does it give him confidence, but I think it gives his (teammates) confidence that you count on (younger players) at any given time.
“I think it’s good for the team, overall.”
However uneventful his night was, Hunwick could have also been describing his own game, too.