Bruins

Haggerty: Seguin ready for playoff action

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Haggerty: Seguin ready for playoff action

By JoeHaggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON No longer is Tyler Seguin going to be dressed in a snappy suit up in the ninth-floor TD Garden press box during playoff games.

He wont be getting ribbed by his older teammates chirping at him to go build some furniture with his Amish-looking playoff beard.

Nope, the 19-year-old is about to get his first taste of the NHL playoff experience. All that sitting-and-watching stuff is a memory now.

Patrice Bergeron is likely out to start the Eastern Conference finals with a mild concussion suffered last Friday night, and Seguins roster presence is about to go from "depth" to deep impact.

The 6-foot-1, 186-pound forward will have gone more than a month without game action when the series starts against the Lightning be it Thursday night or Saturday night at TD Garden but hes excited to get into the game after playing fifth line center for the first time in a young, successful career thats been pretty short on adversity.

Seguin couldnt help but bust into laughter when he was asked what he remembers about the last time the Bruins advanced to the conference finals in 1991-92 a series that took place with Cam Neely and Ray Bourque on the ice when he was four months old.

I remember goo-goo gaga, said a laughing Seguin before he shifted into serious gear. Its not a position Ive ever wanted to be in, where you see a teammate go down.

You dont know whats going to happen to Bergeron . . . Its a hard mental and emotional state to a get a grasp on, but it was an unfortunate bounce that happens in the game of hockey. It was my job to stay physically and mentally ready, and Ive been able to do it. Ive been working hard and trying to keep as sharp as I can. Over the last week Ive been feeling as good as I have in a long time.

Seguin was at right wing on Bostons third line at Monday mornings practice at Ristuccia Arena, with Rich Peverley at center and Michael Ryder on his off wing on the left side.

Thats similar to the trio of Seguin, Peverley and Kelly that skated together for long stretches during the final six weeks of the season while the rookie got his audition for the postseason.

It was also the time of year when Seguin played some of his best hockey.

He had a promising practice session Monday that had his teammates and coaches excited, flashing the speed, skill and offensive dimensions that he can bring to the table. One only needs to go back and watch the replay of the filthy snap shot over Nashville goalie Pekka Rinnes glove hand in March to see what's possible when Seguin puts it all together and attacks the net with confidence.

Unfortunately, that highlight-reel goal on March 17 was the last one Seguin scored this season.

With that in mind, debuting in the playoffs against a skilled, fast-skating team like the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the best thing possible for Bostons heralded rookie.

The head-to-head matchup with Bolts sniper Steven Stamkos should be pretty intriguing for Seguin.

The 19-year-old has heard the comparisons and the parallels between Stamkos and himself all season.

Seguin can almost look at this years playoffs as a microcosm for Stamkos, said general manager Peter Chiarelli. Stamkos really struggled in his first year. He couldnt hold on to a puck . . . he was stripped. Then you just saw him get a little bit heavier, a little bit harder on the puck and then it all just switched like that for him.

"Seguin could look at his playoffs and see how Stamkos got a little bit harder. I dont mean to change these guys in the way they play. But just get a little bit stronger on the puck, first in on the puck, and those types of things in those battles. From the perspective of the whole year and his development in Stamkos first year, Ive used that comparison. They are similar style players. They both can really rocket the puck, good speed and all that stuff.

"Its about hard work. Its about Stamkos offseason. He got a lot stronger, he got heavier and its just a progression. But you have to keep at it. Seguin has to be getting a little stronger on the puck.

Coach Claude Julien is hoping to recreate some of the mojo from the David KrejciBlake WheelerMichael Ryder combo that did so much damage as a third line three years ago, and SeguinPeverleyRyder could help retain that scoring depth so present for Boston in the first two rounds of the postseason.

It wouldnt be bad if that happened," said Julien. "I think that line was so good for us a few years ago."

Part of the reason Seguin dressed for every pregame warmup in every one of the 11 playoff games during the first two rounds: the Bs coaching staff wanted their young star to get a good, long look at how the veterans prepped for playoffs. Thats the kind of thing that cant be learned by being keeping a youngster at arms length.

The Bruins recognized this day would likely come in the war of attrition that is the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The way Tyler practiced today is really encouraging, said Julien. You saw him use his speed, his skill. Watching the playoffs, I guess it really does make you hungry. You hope hes hungry enough that he steps in there and showcases what he can do.

Hes a good player and certainly is improved from day one to now. Right now is crunch time and its about winning. As I mentioned to him, its not so much about being patient and then seeing things. Its about results right now. Its going to be important that he tries to give us some results. Results for him would be certainly competing really hard in all areas and utilizing his skill asset to create some scoring chances -- and then some goals.

Ah, yes.

That's the most important part of Seguins potential contributions.

He finished with 11 goals and 11 assists in a modest rookie season, where ice time and power-play opportunities on a Stanley Cup-caliber roster were limited.

Seguin ended the regular season with no goals in his last 11 games and only one goal in his last 20, but he also finished with 23 shots on net in those final 11 rookie contests. Looking back on it now, Seguin kicks himself for not scoring in a 1-0 loss to the Rangers when he had some good chances.

But he knows he needs to use his heightened play in March and April as a jumping-off point for the playoffs.

I did think I was ramping up my game and doing a lot of little things right, said Seguin. We were doing a lot out there, but it was just bad bounces. I thought the line of Kelly, Pevs and me was flying around out there, but it was just tough bounces and we just couldnt bury one.

We werent getting the results, but thats all that its about this time of year when youre going for the Cup. Thats why its great that this feels like a new season for me.

The fallen Bergeron was often the one Seguin was pointed to most as a role model for the good two-way center game and what the 19-year-old should aspire to be in his NHL career. Bergeron had some complimentary things to say about his young understudy just before the playoffs began.

Seguin is coming along well. I remember how tough it was adjusting to the NHL that young and trying to jump into a pretty established team, said Bergeron in the days leading up to this years playoffs. Hes got the shot and vision and he can really skate like the wind out there. But the one thing you might not realize is how strong on his skates he can be when he really bears down on the puck.

I have a hard time getting it away from him at practice when he wants to keep it from me. Thats what I think youll see more of as he gains confidence and starts growing stronger. Its all there for him to put together.

The Bruins hope that's exactly what Seguin is able to do now that he is part of the their offensive solution.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com.Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

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Bruins get a needed boost from young players in win over Sharks

Here’s what we learned from the Bruins' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the SAP Center on Saturday night, which gave Boston four of a possible six points in its California road swing.
 
1) The kids stepped up at a great time for the Bruins. Boston needed some young players to step up and fill in for the injured veterans up front, and they got it on Saturday night. Jake DeBrusk was the main playmaker on both goals in the first period, and the Bruins got goals from rookies DeBrusk, Peter Cehlarik and Danton Heinen. It was Cehlarik’s first NHL goal and the 10th point of the season for Heinen, who continues to show signs that he is going to be a productive, reliable winger  even though he didn’t start the season at the NHL level. DeBrusk finished with a goal and an assist and twice used his speed and aggressiveness taking the puck to the net to create scoring chances: On the first goal it was Cehlarik who finished the loose puck after DeBrusk’s net drive created a rebound, and on the second it was DeBrusk simply beating reigning Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns to a race for the puck and then snapping it up and over San Jose backup goalie Aaron Dell. Cehlarik became the sixth Bruins rookie to score the first goal of his NHL career with Boston this season, and it all shows tangible results of the youth movement they were fully embracing this season. There will be peaks and valleys with so many young players in the lineup, but Saturday night turned out to be one of those high-water marks.

2)  At their healthiest, the Bruins can be a fast-skating, skilled team that will be equal parts offense and defense in a hard-working style that features pace and creativity in the offensive zone. The Bruins aren't healthy right now, obviously, and aren’t going to find success that way as attested by the fact that they hadn’t won two games in a row this season until Saturday night in San Jose. With a number of players already out of the lineup, Torey Krug now injured as well and Tuukka Rask taking an extended rest in favor of a red-hot Anton Khudobin, the Bruins are actually playing a very different brand of hockey right now. With Rask not playing -- and not allowing the types of bad or soft goals he's given up so far this year -- they can play a little more conservatively and try to make a two- or three-goal output in a game actually stick as the game-winning margin. Just check the box score,  as the Bruins blocked a whopping 30 shots and conversely the Sharks blocked just 12. Zdeno Chara, Kevan Miller and Robbie O’Gara all had blocked shots in the final few minutes, and Brandon Carlo stepped in front of a wide-open chance for Burns in the third period off a clean offensive zone faceoff win for the Sharks. Those are all gritty, tough plays in the D-zone that you don’t always see, and it perhaps comes a little more naturally when the Bruins are making the clear choice to feature their defense and goaltending right now. It may not be sustainable once Anton Khudobin inevitably cools off a little bit, but for now it’s pretty darn effective.


 
3)  After watching him stop 36 of 37 shots for the win on Saturday night, the Bruins need to see this thing through with Khudobin until he loses a game. Khudobin is 5-0-2 with this season, with a .949 save percentage in three appearances in November. He's playing the best he's played in the last couple of years. Right now Khudobin is actually leading the NHL with a .935 save percentage for the season, and that really contrasts to Rask's .897 save percentage. Certainly part of it is about the Bruins selling out defensively in front of him and blocking 30 shots in the win while knowing they didn’t have to play again until Wednesday night. But it’s also about the Bruins backup goaltender playing himself into a position where the B’s should ride him until he cools down a little bit, and give Rask some more time to figure out what is slowing him down between the pipes right now.
 
PLUS
-- DeBrusk made a couple of big plays in the first period that led to goals for the Bruins, and he finished with a goal, two points, a plus-2 and a team-high four shots on net in 15:49 of ice time. He has a goal and three points in three games since being a healthy scratch last weekend against Toronto.
 
--Khudobin made 16 saves in the first period when the Bruins were outshot 17-5 and it certainly seemed like they were going to get run out of the building. Instead Khudobin stood tall.
 
-- Heinen finished with two goals and three points on the three-game trip and iced the game for the Bruins with a backdoor strike in the third period after Kevan Miller had dashed up the right side of the ice to create the chance. Heinen is pushing up near the Bruins team leaders in some offensive categories and looks like he belongs in the NHL this season.
 
MINUS
-- Burns was burnt on each of the Bruins' two first-period goals, he actually missed the net with 12 of his 16 shot attempts, and he had seven giveaways in a pretty sloppy game managing the puck. Burns hasn’t had a great season to date, and Saturday night was a good example of things not going well for him this year.
 
-- Paul Postma finished with just eight minutes of ice time in the win, and was part of the poor defensive coverage on the Sharks goal by Joonas Donskoi in the first period that ended up getting overturned on video review. Postma didn’t show much else after that only playing a handful of minutes over the remainder of the game, and based on his early performance looks like he’s only going to be a seventh defensemen in Boston.
 
-- Here’s a hearty boo to the 10:30 pm West Coast starts on Saturday night that only the diehards, or those getting paid, are going to closely watch on the weekend leading up to Thanksgiving. Congrats to you if you were one of the lucky ones that decided to stay up and watch a game that didn’t end until after 1 a.m. in the East.  

Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

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Morning Skate: Payroll mess at the heart of Bruins' problems

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while battening down the hatches for Thanksgiving week.
 
-- When longtime Bruins follower Clark Booth opines about the Black and Gold, I tend to listen. And he's not happy with the Bruins' salary cap situation at this point in time. It should be noted that this was written before they won the last two games. But some of those truths still remain self-evident when it comes to the B’s.

-- Kevin Bieksa will never stop talking about former teammate Rick Rypien, or about the factors that ultimately led to his tragic passing.
 
-- Alex Ovechkin is truly living up to the “Russian Machine Never Breaks” mantra these days, which led to the creation of an entire blog about the Capitals.
 
-- This Saturday Night Live skit with Chance the Rapper playing a clueless hockey reporter was funny, even to people that have been covering the league for 20 years and still struggle to pronounce a name like Brady Skjei.
 
-- The good, the bad and the ugly courtesy of FOH (Friend of Haggs) Mitch Melnick from last night’s Montreal blowout loss to the Maple Leafs that probably could have just been called the ugly, the ugly and the ugly.
 
-- It’s 20 games into the season, and the Buffalo Sabres media are wondering what’s wrong with their team, and star Jack Eichel.
 
-- For something completely different: It sounds like some of the NFL rank-and-file players want to know why Roger Goodell deserves $50 million and a lifetime private plane.