The Bruins' Matt Bartkowski is a native of Mt. Lebanon.
By Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Like the rest of the hockey world, defenseman Matt Bartkowski was tethered to the web March 27. That night, he kept reading that the Boston Bruins had acquired star winger Jarome Iginla from Calgary.
Unlike others, Bartkowski had a keen personal interest because those reports said he was part of the deal and would be heading to the Flames.
"It was social media," he said Tuesday. "I was just watching the Internet like everybody else."
Then, everything blew up, but Bartkowski has no complaints.
Iginla, invoking a no-movement clause in his contract, chose a deal that sent him to the Penguins instead of Boston. Bartkowski remained with the Bruins, and now will be traveling to his hometown later this week for the start of the Eastern Conference final at 8 p.m. Saturday against Iginla and the Penguins, the team he grew up watching.
"That night, I figured it was a done deal. I think everybody did other than the Penguins," Bartkowski, a Mt. Lebanon native, said. "It was kind of a whirlwind."
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli told Bartkowski that the Flames had specifically requested him, which made Bartkowski feel good. But Calgary is sitting out these playoffs while Boston has won two rounds and is eying the Stanley Cup final. That makes him feel even better.
"I never thought it would really all come together in the playoffs, being a regular [in the lineup]," said Bartkowski, who was recalled from the American Hockey League in the first round. "But I'm glad that it did."
The Bruins, who acquired winger Jaromir Jagr from Dallas instead of Iginla, are satisfied with the way things worked out.
"We knew if that [Iginla] trade went through, we were losing a good player; we're really glad to have kept [Bartkowski] here," Boston coach Claude Julien told reporters Tuesday after practice.
Bartkowski is a rookie who will turn 25 in the series against the Penguins. He has played just 20 regular-season NHL games -- four against the Penguins -- but has played in the past seven playoff games, with a goal and an assist.
He scored in the first round against Toronto, becoming the ninth Bruins player to score a playoff goal before registering a regular-season goal.
Boston defenseman Andrew Ference, who has what is believed to be a left foot or ankle injury, skated Monday and practiced Tuesday with the team. If he returns in the series against the Penguins, it could push Bartkowski out of the lineup.
Or maybe not.
Bartkowski and fellow rookie defenseman Torey Krug have gotten a lot of attention and strong reviews since they joined the playoff mix. Krug, also an injury call-up, had four goals, five points in five games in the second around against the New York Rangers. Three of those goals came on the power play.
"We're buddies in Providence [of the AHL]," Bartkowski said. "I was happy when he got called up and even happier when he started to do well."
Bartkowski was part of Boston's taxi squad, or Black Aces, when they won the Stanley Cup in 2011. That's a group of prospects who get called up to experience the playoffs, but the players often practice separately and rarely get into a game.
"They tried to make us feel part of the team, but it's like night and day to now," Bartkowski said.
Before his playoff recall, Bartkowski had five goals in five games to help Providence win an AHL series against Hershey. That, he said, beat being a healthy scratch with Boston.
"If I had been sitting around, riding the bike in Boston, I don't think I would have been anywhere near ready to step in like I have," he said.
He's ready to make his hometown playoff debut when the series opens at Consol Energy Center. Just don't pester him for playoff tickets.
"Everybody keeps asking me about that," Bartkowski said. "I've got everything settled on the family end. Everybody else is going to have to be on their own. I really don't want to be running around the day before a game trying to figure out tickets."