a familiar face wears the OTHER black and gold

For Pittsburgh Penguins fans, Saturday evening’s 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals was a tough defeat to take. However, there is one household in Mt. Lebanon that could not be more proud of the outcome. Beth and Rick Bartkowski, who reside on Summer Place, are the parents of defenseman Matt Bartkowski. In Saturday night’s match-up with the Pens, Bartkowski was a “healthy scratch,” as Bruins coach Claude Julien opted to not dress Bartkowski in favor of veteran defenseman Andrew Ference.

Photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images
Matt Bartkowski photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images

“Saturday night, I skated during pregame warm-ups and was told just after that,” said Bartkowski. “That’s typically when you find out.”

Despite not being in the lineup for the victory, Bartkowski, who graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School in 2006, will be ready when he is called upon. Being a part of the playoff buzz in Pittsburgh is exactly where he wants to be these days.

“It has been pretty cool,” he said. “It is something you dream of as a kid to be playing in your hometown in the playoffs.”

On Sunday morning, Bartkowski woke up at the Omni William Penn Hotel, where the Bruins are staying. After a team breakfast, he was off to the arena for Boston’s morning skate. Later in the day, as other Bruins passed time around town or in their hotel rooms, Bartkowski invited teammate Kaspars Daugavins to his parents’ house in Mt. Lebanon for a family cookout.

“The weather is so nice — we’re on the porch gathering and having typical cookout food,” said Bartkowski.

His 25th birthday is on Tuesday — yet another reason to celebrate next to the grill and enjoy returning home to Mt. Lebanon. Sometimes it is the food he misses most when living away in the New England area, he said.

“When I’m home, I really like to go to Claudio’s on Painters Run Road,” said Bartkowski. “I typically get something different every time I go. It has great Italian food. [In Mt. Lebanon,] I like to go to Little Tokyo every once in a while.”

Back on the ice, Bartkowski continues to help Boston toward its goal of the Stanley Cup. He recently scored his first NHL goal in a victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals on May 13. It has taken a lot of hard work and support from his parents to get to this point. His agent Stephen Reich has seen a lot of superior hockey players in his days and continues to be impressed with Bartkowski’s progression.

Matt Bartkowski photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images
Photo: Steve Babineau/Getty Images

“For him to have this kind of success, you have to make sacrifices and have support from your family,” said Reich. “You don’t get to this point without having the support of the organization. His AHL organization in Providence and the Bruins have shown full faith in him.”

Later today, Bartkowski will once again join his teammates for a morning skate at CONSOL Energy Center and then have a post-practice meal at the hotel. From there, he’ll take a short nap to rest his mind as he prepares for tonight’s Game 2. Once again, Bartkowski won’t know if he’ll be in the lineup for the game. He’ll don the Bruins jersey, lace up the skates, and take pregame warm-ups on the ice — hopeful that his #43 will be called to play.

The puck will drop at 8 p.m. tonight and all the action can be seen on the NBC Sports Network or heard on the radio dial at 105.9FM WXDX.