Dougie diary: Seeking a strong finish

HamiltonBruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton has been keeping a diary for ESPNBoston.com this season. In his latest installment, he talks about the team’s recent struggles, injuries on the team, and how the trade deadline affected him. (As told to Louise K. Cornetta)

A lot of unlucky things happened to us over the past month. I don’t think our game slipped too much from how well we played in January. I thought we were working hard but just couldn’t get bounces to go our way in games. Hopefully now in March, we can move forward and get back to our winning ways.

One area we’ve worked on is our power play. It’s a little bit different now. We have two different units, same guys but in different positions. It’s improved a lot and we’ve scored a couple of goals with the unit I play on, and the other unit has scored some goals too. We need our power play to do well in order for our team to be successful.

We’re moving in the right direction. There is more of a complete effort in the games. We have to keep working hard. We know there is only a little over 20 games left and there are teams behind us who are pushing us. We have to make sure we are focused on every game.

I talked about some unlucky things that have happened and that includes being hit by the injury bug. We lost a goal scorer and a defenseman when David Krejci and Kevan Miller got hurt. I guess with injury there is opportunity for somebody else to play. We’ve seen that with Ryan Spooner in Krejci’s spot and Bart [Matt Bartkowski] in Miller’s. Both guys are playing well and that’s what you need. It shows our organizational depth. It’s a credit to the staff for having that so guys can come up and play when needed. I think that’s been the story all year. There has been a ton of guys who have played and played well. It just shows how good our depth is.

I wanted to bring up the play of our goalie Tuukka Rask. As a defenseman, it’s great to have the confidence knowing that he’s there for you. He’s going to stop the pucks that are shot. I think as a defenseman you want to give him the easiest shot. He’s going to save pretty much any shot that he sees. It’s pretty easy to play in front of him.

As for my own play, it was nice to pass my career high in goals in January. While my scoring touch isn’t something I was trying to work on, I felt over the summer I improved my shot. This season, it was more about situational stuff and getting lucky. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought to outside of thinking I’ve definitely improved my shot and I’m shooting more. I guess scoring more is a result of that.

I also got in my first NHL fight against Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog. I’ve gotten more comfortable. I had this fight and tried to stick up a couple of times for guys. Bringing more toughness to my game is not something I’m really thinking about. It’s just kind of happening. I need to keep improving that part of my game. My former roommate Adam McQuaid didn’t give me any tips on the fight, but all my teammates said I did pretty well. I didn’t really know what I was doing. It had been a while since I’ve gotten in a fight. You can always improve on that stuff.

Last month we had our longest road trip of the season and racked up over 10,000 miles in travel. I wish I had a good tip for combatting jetlag other than to just try to go with the flow. I really didn’t feel too jetlagged this trip though. It helped that we came home in stages and flew back from Chicago rather than all the way from Vancouver. Flying for seven hours after a practice can be tough, and then having to be ready to play the next day. I think that’s just an adjustment you have to make and do your best with.

A long road trip can really help bring a team closer. You’re spending so much time with the guys. It’s obviously different on the road because you’re eating together and all that stuff. It definitely brings a team closer.

Most recently we just had the trade deadline pass. We didn’t talk about it too much because it’s out of our control. For me this year, the deadline was a little more real with Jordy [Jordan Caron] and my brother [Freddie Hamilton was traded from San Jose to Colorado] getting traded as well. In the past, I haven’t had to lose a friend or seen a family member traded. This was the first year the deadline showed me the reality of what could happen. I let my brother know that change brings opportunity and you need to make the most of the opportunity.

We didn’t end up trading for any defenseman. I think you have to be confident in the group that we have. I think we are and believe in each other. It’s about bonding together as a team and playing the last 20 games hard.

We traded for Brett Connolly and Max Talbot. It was pretty unlucky what happened to Brett breaking his index finger in only his second practice with us. I feel badly for him. I knew Brett a little bit because I played with him at World Juniors. I’ve seen him develop since his draft year until now. He’s obviously a really good player who is smart and skilled and big. It’s going to be exciting to eventually play with him. Me and [Ryan] Spooner knew him and are trying to make him comfortable here. As for Max, I don’t know a lot about him yet. I’ve watched him play over the years and know how good he is as well. Another smart player who shows leadership and skills. I’m excited to see what he can do for our team.

As mentioned, we are in homestretch time. Obviously we want to make the playoffs and to be playing some of our best hockey going into the playoffs. Right now, we need to go game by game. Our schedule is pretty tough coming up. It will be important to take every game one at a time and see what we can do.

I know it’s been a long, cold, snow-filled winter. For me, the best way to combat the winter blues is to play hockey. I’m a Canadian boy though. We learned to embrace winter. I actually really don’t mind it too much. I will admit it has felt like a long stretch of cold weather. So it would be nice if the snow starts to melt soon. I found it interesting to see how much snow Boston could get and it turned out to be the most ever.