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Bruins defenseman Hamilton proves to be quick study

by Matt Kalman

DETROIT -- Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton is a quick learner.

That attribute, combined with his immense ability, allowed him to become a regular in the NHL as a 19-year-old in 2012-13 and a top-pair defenseman in his second season. It also helped him score a key goal in Game 3 of the Bruins' Eastern Conference First Round series against the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday.

The Bruins won 3-0 to go up 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. Game 4 is Thursday (8 p.m. ET, TSN, NBCSN, NESN, FS-D) in Detroit.

The first bit of knowledge Hamilton applied from Game 2 to Game 3 was that the Red Wings were going to give him room to roam with the puck. He took advantage of that several times in Game 3 and nearly scored three goals before the game was 12 minutes old.

Hamilton hit the post with a shot from just above the hash marks about 3:30 into the game.

Then he got the Bruins rolling with an end-to-end power-play goal. Hamilton held off the late resistance of Detroit forward Darren Helm and defenseman Kyle Quincey before he beat goaltender Jimmy Howard high to the glove side for a 1-0 lead at 9:00. It was Hamilton's first-ever playoff goal.

Hamilton wasn't surprised the Red Wings backed off of him.

"No, I think that we knew that. I think last game was the same way, and we knew, I guess I knew, I was able to skate, and it was just a matter of what to do at the blue line, whether to make a pass, turn up, chip or shoot or whatever," said Hamilton, who played seven postseason games for Boston last season. "So, I just saw a shot available and took it."

He made the right decision, as he did about two minutes later. After a steal at the red line, Hamilton gained the zone and then shot just wide of the net after he reclaimed the handle on a slippery dangle.

Hamilton refused to entertain the idea that he might've had a hat trick.

"Yeah, I probably wouldn't have [had a hat trick], so I just try not to think about it. I'm just happy with one," he said.

Hamilton's other lesson from Game 2 was to have a stronger stick. Late in the second period of that game, he took a tripping penalty. He was penalty-free in Game 3, and it was his active stick that helped keep the Red Wings off the scoreboard and limit star center Pavel Datsyuk to one shot for the second straight game. In particular, the 6-foot-5 Hamilton's reach came to the rescue during a penalty kill after defenseman Kevan Miller was whistled for delay of game.

With Miller, a key penalty-killer, out of the picture, Hamilton had to carry an extra load and he made sure to defend the area near the top of the crease from pucks and bodies.

When paired with 6-foot-9 Zdeno Chara and his enormous wingspan, Hamilton's reach basically forms the second half of a fence that makes attacking the Bruins an exercise in hurdling.

"Yeah, I'm trying. I think it's part of the playoffs, I guess," Hamilton said about bearing down on his stickwork in the passing lanes. "Sometimes you have to, I guess, be aware and have a strong stick and not let them make passes through you and lift your stick and things like that. And I guess my penalty last game was kind of that weak stick. And I'm just trying to keep developing and keep adding stuff as the playoffs go."

Hamilton was awarded the Bruins' new player-of-the-game prize, a letterman jacket that says "Old-Time Hockey" on a patch. It was given to the team by Bruins legend Johnny Bucyk. Hamilton also got the puck for his first playoff goal, but he said he hasn't done much with his career souvenirs, so he probably won't do anything interesting with his new one.

"I value it. I think it's obviously not the same [as a first NHL goal], but it's a bigger level when you're playing in the playoffs and you're playing. It's nice to score," he said.

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