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Postgame Notebook: Merlot on the Board; Hamilton Back In with Blueliner Rotation

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

SUNRISE, FL - The end result earned the Bruins two points on Thursday night in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers and former Boston goaltender Tim Thomas.

Reilly Smith added the late finish with just 58.7 on the clock, after a quick 2-0 start for the B's in the first period, thanks to Daniel Paille beating Thomas short side off a defense to offense rush, and Dougie Hamilton firing in his first goal of the season on the power play.

"We stressed that before the game," said Smith. "Just getting the first goal because that hasn’t happened the last couple of games. So it was big, it definitely gave us a little boost and energy to start."

Paille's first of 2013-14 also got the Merlot Line with Gregory Campbell and Shawn Thornton on the board for the season.

It came off a 3-on-2, with Matt Bartkowski winning a battle and getting it to Dennis Seidenberg, who - with a jump in step - led the rush and fed a streaking Paille down the left side.

His goal came against the Panthers' top line of 2013 Calder Cup winner Jonathan Huberdeau, Scott Gomez and Kris Versteeg.

The Merlot liners all finished the game at plus-1 and combined for six of the B's 40 shots on goal. Campbell saw net-front power play and his two shots were both in close chances. Thornton also added three shots to the cause.

"We created a lot more chances today but we can still improve I think," said Paille following the win. "For the most part, we did stay in our zone but at times we got caught with their top lines and we kind of gave up some chances where we had to be better defensively."

"But we should take it with a positive attitude. We’re buzzing and coming around."

Being More Committed

The Bruins found a way to earn the two points but given that they allowed the Panthers back into the game after the 2-0 lead, there's plenty room for improvement after two straight games of not only lax defensive coverage, but also capitalizing more on chances.

"I think it’s a combination of everything actually. You say defensively, and you’re right, but even offensively, there’s no way we should have just scored three goals tonight," Julien told reporters postgame. "You had [40 shots] at the end, and the chances we had. We don’t have real good net-front presence; when we come into the zone we don’t really have that middle drive."

"So right now, I think offensively, that’s one of the reasons we’re not scoring as much is that we’re not as committed to those kind of things and defensively it’s the same thing. So that’s why you see those situations."

"Overall our game has got to be better, and it’s not about necessarily practicing certain things, I think it’s more about the commitment and the attitude towards our game right now that needs to be a little bit better."

"We kept pressing, we played a little bit sloppy so we were able to get two points out of it but we have to bear down defensively and offensively now too," said Paille. "Especially when we’re up 2-0 early, you want to keep pressing as much as you can and we didn’t necessarily do that for the full game."

Thomas looked himself, making 37 saves on the B's 40 shots, including a backhander in tight by Jarome Iginla during a four-minute power play in the third period that would have given the Bruins a 3-1 lead. It was Iginla's best bid yet, for his first goal as a Bruin.

"He’s a tremendous goalie so it was nice to get a couple early on against him and have that lead. But in the same sense he bounced back and he made it that much harder for us to get that third one."

At the other end, the Bruins' defensive coverage wasn't up to its usual level.

"It's been different. Usually you know what you’re going to get chance-wise and lately it’s been just like these mental mistakes, if it’s from me or whoever and all the sudden the puck’s in the net," said Rask, who wasn't too pleased with the goals he let in, especially the equalizer that he had tried to cover. Florida's Jesse Winchester batted in the loose puck.

"It’s been a little different but it’s still early in the season and I’m glad we’re winning more than losing; it’s not costing us but it’s definitely been different than what we’re used to."

"You don’t want to make those mistakes. I mean, you’re a goalie you make a mistake, it’s going to show on the scoreboard and you never want to be 'that guy.' But today it happened and the guys bailed me out and that’s a great team sign."

Hamilton Back In, McQuaid the Healthy Scratch

Dougie Hamilton was back in the lineup on Thursday night in Sunrise, after two games as a healthy scratch, paired with Zdeno Chara. Adam McQuaid was the game's healthy scratch. Johnny Boychuk paired with Torey Krug in his absence, with Dennis Seidenberg and Matt Bartkowski as the second pairing.

"I think every game is a thought process of that; you've got to keep guys playing, you've got to keep guys not in the stands for too long, and that's what we've been doing," Julien has said of the seven defensemen rotation that's not necessarily performance-based, and meant to keep the players sitting out from not getting too "rusty."

"I thought he was very good tonight. Played a real good game for us," Julien said of Hamilton's performance, netting his power-play tally in the first to give the B's a 2-0 lead, with Chara at his position camped in front. David Krejci's ability to keep it in the zone and thread it over to Hamilton made it possible.

"And Zee again did a great job in front. With Zee in front, [Dougie] picks the corner that’s open and that was a great shot. And I thought tonight he, again, like I said, I thought he had a solid game."

"It’s a time where you can try to be confident and make plays like you said and try to score for your team," said Hamilton, of bringing the adrenaline that he started the game with onto the man-advantage.

"I think it was nice to get a power play goal, but I don’t think it’s something that’s going to keep me in the lineup," he added, when asked if his confidence on the power play might help him stay in the lineup. "I think just my whole play and just trying to play a two-way game."

The rotation isn't the easiest situation, but Hamilton and the rest of the blueliners are always at the ready.

I even said to him, the same thing I tell you - I didn’t want to make a big story of this; we’re rotating guys in and out and we need some of those young players to play early in the year.Claude Julien, on the D-men rotation

"It’s tough when you’re not playing and you don’t really know if you’re playing or not when you’re coming to the rink. I think it’s, I guess a learning experience to always be ready and always prepare like you’re going to play," said Hamilton.

"I think it’s a lot easier when you know you’re going to play but just always be ready and I guess we’re pushing each other to try and stay in the lineup. So everyone’s trying to play well."

As far as McQuaid sitting up top for the game, Julien stressed that its simply the "non-rust" factor playing a part.

"I even said to him, the same thing I tell you - I didn’t want to make a big story of this; we’re rotating guys in and out and we need some of those young players to play early in the year."

"And somebody’s going to go down [with injury] at some point and I don’t want guys to be sitting for a month and all of the sudden throw them into the lineup."

"So that’s what we’re doing early on and whether you’re young or a veteran, those are the decisions that we’re making right now."

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