Bruins

Seguin working towards shoot-first mentality

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Seguin working towards shoot-first mentality

BOSTON -- It will likely serve as a refresher course for Tyler Seguin when its looked back upon later in the season, and nothing more.

The 19-year-old was talking shots on net and staying aggressive after Wednesdays practice after only registering a pair of shots on net in Bostons 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators at TD Garden. Seguin did notch an assist when he fed a trailing Patrice Bergeron for a snappy looking second-period goal that highlighted the youngsters superior vision on the ice, but he also turned down some good chances to pursue his own offense.

There wasnt a more clear example than the very same second period when Seguin had turned on the jets to split through two Senators defenders something hes done multiple times already through his young career and carved out an open pathway to the net where one hadnt existed just seconds prior by leaving Ottawa defenseman Erik Karlsson in his dust.

Instead of pressing the issue with a shot on Craig Anderson or drawing a penalty on one of the defenders now in chase mode, Seguin attempted to throw a drop-back pass to Brad Marchand trailing on the play. That pass which happened prior to Seguins sweet set up on Bergerons goal was deflected away from Marchand, and amounted to very little where it could have been a big play generated by Bostons best offensive playmakers at a time of need.

Seguin was aware that he needs to be a little more assertive with his own offense at times rather than caving into the centers first instinct to pass the puck.

I do think I need to shoot more," said Seguin. "I remember there was one play last night where I went down on the D and went one way and cut back the other way. I watched the replay and I almost had a clear breakaway but I decided to pass.

My instinct is always to look backdoor, but I've got to stop trying to be maybe too fancy and put pucks to the net. I know I've seen myself this year when I shoot more being rewarded, so I have to continue doing that and not give away good shots."

But on the other hand Seguin is second on the Bs with 36 shots in 11 games, and has done a good job of putting himself into scoring position as attested by his team-leading four goals a spot he shares with Milan Lucic on a team that hasnt really hit its goal-scoring stride quite yet. Bergeron actually leads the Bruins with 39 shots on net this season, and it makes sense to pair the teen-aged playmaker with a skilled two-way center like Bergeron that will be able to finish off some of the plays out on the ice.

Coach Claude Julien thinks his young point-scoring hotshot is going to get better at plays just like the one from Tuesday nights game, and it comes with experience, confidence and perhaps even a little toughness at times.

We reviewed the video, and personally you wish Seguin would have taken it to the net and maybe drawn a penalty there, said Julien. He had half a step, but there were also two players behind him that were kinda open. Guys like that are playmakers, and you dont want to be too hard on them when theyre making decisions like that.

You see the pass he made to Bergeron, so hes capable of making those plays. You dont want to take that away from him. Hes a guy that can take the puck to the net with his speed. There are times where hes capable of taking it to the net, and a young player builds confidence and gains confidence in taking it to the net. Theres always a chance youre going to get slashes or whacked on the ankles taking pucks to the net, and you have to be willing to do that.

Its a fine line with Seguin, of course. Hes already second on the team in shots and he has a wonderfully unselfish bent to his game where hes looking to set up his teammates for scoring chances on the ice. None of that needs to change if Seguin gets just a touch more assertive when the puck is on his stick with a chance to do some offensive damage.

Because more and more thats looking like Bostons best option to put a couple of goals up on the board.

Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

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Bruins shuffling the deck looking for answers up front

BRIGHTON, Mass – It would appear that Bruce Cassidy is ready to start shuffling the deck up front after a slow start to the season.

With the Bruins ranking among the league’s worst both offensively and defensively just a handful of games into the season, they are both introducing a few new forwards to the mix while hoping for full health to a couple of other ones. 

First off, the Bruins appear that they might get David Backes back for Thursday night’s game against the Vancouver Canucks after his bout with diverticulitis, supplying some badly needed size, strength and net-front tenacity on the wing. Patrice Bergeron (lower body) might not be too far behind after going through a full practice wearing a no-contact jersey. The return of No. 37 would help in any number of different areas once he’s good to go, and would have a cascade effect on the rest of the forwards.  

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Getting both players back in short order would give the Bruins a toughness around the net that was certainly missing against Malcolm Subban and the Golden Knights, and hasn’t been there consistently this season with No. 37 and No. 42 out of commission.

“[Bergeron] is progressing. In the past we’ve ruled him out ahead of time, but we’re not ruling him out for [Thursday vs. the Canucks]. Backes looks closer to being ready to play,” said Bruce Cassidy. “Some of the games that have gotten away from us, those guys are glue guys that really add that element to us to keep us on the rails without the game getting away. Some nights you just need their offense or some hard defending, and you miss their leadership obviously. They’re all good players, but most of them you know they’re bringing that North/South game and a few good shifts here or there could have got us back on track.

“[Bergeron] is underrated in his ability to get to the front of the net especially with Marchand and Pastrnak on his wings. So we miss that part of it: Getting there on time, making plays and finishing off plays. Backes is just a big body there and you certainly miss that part of it. With Vegas the other night that was one of the biggest things we were missing was getting second chances, shooting for second chances, hitting the net and getting those rebound chances against a team that was harder to get inside on.

A few moves on Wednesday might also suggest some on-the-fly changes with some forwards that haven’t been working out with the Black and Gold. Ryan Spooner suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday night against Vegas, and it sounds like it might not be a short-term injury for the center with just one point in his first five games. Matt Beleskey and Frank Vatrano also haven’t produced much in the first couple of weeks of the season, and could be in danger of losing roster spots to Providence call-ups Kenny Agostino and Peter Cehlarik.  

Both players were late cuts from training camp and were showing the blend of size, strength, skill, experience and production that Boston needs more of as they search for answers among their forward group. Beleskey, Spooner and Vatrano have combined for one point, a minus-6 rating and just 12 shots on net in a combined 14 games this season, so clearly that is one of the first spots to look for upgrading the roster from within.

“[A tryout period] is a good way to put it. We talked about that in training camp when we had a long look at guys, but not Cehlarik because he didn’t get a chance to play [because of shoulder surgery]. He obviously piqued our interest last year and did a lot of good things for us,” said Cassidy, who has been in a state of constant flux putting forward lines together due to injury and ineffectiveness. “We just went in a different direction at the trade deadline, but we brought him up to give him a look. We have a decision tomorrow and I’m not going to say whether [Cehlarik] is in or out.

“He’s really played well in Providence, and we just thought he might be able to help us. Some of it may depend on the health of the other guys as far as who’s in and who’s out. If both Cehlarik and Agostino are both in the lineup there’s a chance [they might play together]. They were with [Riley] Nash today in the middle, and he has some of the same qualities as JFK down in Providence. But until we sort through who’s in for tomorrow, and that starts at the top with Bergeron and Backes, then stuff will fall into place for all of them.”

Depending on how Don Sweeney plays with his 23-roster spots, perhaps the time has come to put one of those players on waivers for a trip to the AHL. Simply based on merit it would be Vatrano and the total nothingness he’s shown in his first four games this season, but there would also be a legitimate concern they’d lose the 23-year-old Massachusetts native on waivers for nothing.

For their part, players like Agostino and Cehlarik ripped up the AHL while teamed with Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson in Providence, and were just looking for their chance to carve out a role in Boston. Now they may get their chance based on others not really grasping their opportunity, and they’re ready if that’s the case.

“It’s encouraging for me, but I’m just taking things day-by-day. I’m not looking past anything and I’m looking in the past. I just take things as they come here,” said Agostino, who leads the Bruins two goals and seven points in three games thus far. “This isn’t my first time [up at the NHL], so I’m just going to do whatever I can to make the best impression possible.”

What if Agostino and Cehlarik, a career AHL player and a former third-round pick, can’t make the impact that the Bruins are looking for?

Hopefully by then the Bruins will at least have their top two lines healthy and firing on all cylinders, and can continue to mix and match things in the bottom six until they find a combination of forwards that work. But it may come to a point where the Bruins need to look outside the organization for an impact forward or two, or at least find somebody that can make an impact on the ice rather than will themselves invisible.

Only Beleskey has been at all effective this season as he’s dropped the gloves and played physical at times, and certainly can still be an effective third or fourth liner with the right players skating alongside him. For those reasons along with the massive contract money still owed him, Beleskey should be given every opportunity to succeed in Boston. But one thing is clear at this point: There is too much dead weight on the Bruins roster right now at the forward position, and something needs to be done about it if they hope to pull themselves out of their early-season funk.   

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Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

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Bruins lose Ryan Spooner for 4-6 weeks with a groin tear

The Bruins have absorbed another substantial injury to their forward group with the news that Ryan Spooner will be out 4-6 weeks with a torn groin. According to sources, it was something he was playing with for some time before the right adductor muscle in his groin finally tore in Sunday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights.

With Spooner out of the Bruins lineup, there will be challenges to both team speed and to a power play unit that the fast-skating center was a key contributor over the last couple of seasons. Sean Kuraly was centering Tim Schaller and David Backes in Spooner’s absence during Wednesday practice, but it remains to be seen how they’ll go about filling the void for the next couple of months.

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“We’re no different than anybody else. We’d like to have our full complement [of players],” said Bruce Cassidy, when addressing the injury situation. “To be healthy and 100 percent in this league is tough, but we’d love to be there.”

Spooner was very clearly slowed by something at the start of the season with just one point and four shots on net in his first five games of the season along with a minus-2 rating, and that’s a tough development for a player like Spooner that relies on his speed and skating for much of his effectiveness at the NHL level. It will be interesting to see if Jakob Forsbacka Karlsson eventually gets a look given his fast start at the AHL Level, and the fact that Spooner is on a one-year deal that may see him playing somewhere other than Boston next season, or perhaps even following this spring’s trade deadline. 

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