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

Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

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Win vs. Islanders 'a nice building block' for Bruins

BROOKLYN, NY – It wasn’t particularly entertaining and it won’t be all that memorable down the ride aside from the timing and importance of the meeting between the Bruins and Islanders. But it was a solid 2-1 team win for the Bruins over the Islanders at the Barclays Center on Saturday night with the B’s grinding all the way down to the end while protecting a one-goal lead through much of the third period.

Nearly everybody across Boston’s roster contributed in the major victory over the team trying to bypass them in the wild card standings, and it was a beautiful thing. Anton Khudobin stepped up when Tuukka Rask couldn’t start Saturday night’s showdown with a lower body issue, and Riley Nash supplied both Boston goals from a fourth line that’s played some of their best hockey lately.

It was unlikely heroes all around for the Black and Gold in the tightly-wound contest, but that diversity of talent and production can be a very good thing for a team looking to make that playoff push.

“You have to stay with it. You have to stay in the moment and stay with the game no matter what’s happening during the game. That’s how you get results, and that’s how you find ways to persevere through adversity,” said Patrice Bergeron. “We just got back to playing stingy, especially in the neutral zone. We got away from it the last few games, and it was nice tonight to be back playing a low-scoring game like what we’re used to playing.”

When it was all said and done the Bruins only allowed 19 shots on net and also killed off six penalties in the kind of grinding defensive showdown that you haven’t seen all that much out of the Black and Gold lately. It was exactly what Cassidy was looking for to snap the four-game losing streak, and once again start pushing the Bruins upward into the playoff chase.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard and fighting that hard to see pucks and find pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Cassidy. “From the goalie on out, everybody was in there [in the win]. It was a tough game. It was a nice Bruins win. We had been doing it with offense earlier, and we’ve got to be able to do it both ways. You need to be able to win 2-1 hockey games, and it had been awhile.”

Now it’s simply up to the Bruins to be feeling good about their latest win while going back to basics, and looking for more next time around after ending their worst losing streak of the season.

Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

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Anton Khudobin battles for a huge win filling in for Tuukka Rask

BROOKLYN, NY – Things didn’t go so well last season for the Bruins when Tuukka Rask suddenly wasn’t well enough to play in the last game of the season, so there was good reason for the B’s to be a little nervous when their No. 1 goalie again couldn’t answer the bell Saturday night vs. the Islanders.

Anton Khudobin had won four games in a row headed into Saturday night, of course, and in his previous start he’d helped snap a 10-game winning streak for the Calgary Flames. So perhaps it wasn’t all that surprising when Khudobin stood tall for the Bruins making 18 saves in a tight, nervy 2-1 win over the Isles at the Barclays Center.

“You don’t have that many shots, but maybe 10 scoring chances…that can be tougher than seeing 30 shots and same amount of scoring chances,” said Khudobin. “But I’m glad got the job done, we got our points and we got the ‘W’.”

It wasn’t wall-to-wall action in a game where both teams combined for 37 shots on net, but it was still impressive that Khudobin and the B’s special teams killed off six Islander power plays in such a tight hockey game. After the B’s backup netminder was lauded for the way he battled in the crease and competed for pucks like his team’s very life was on the line in a pivotal game.

“That’s the type of win that goes a long way in the room when your goaltender is battling hard, and fighting that hard to see pucks and your D are blocking shots. And you kill that many penalties. It was a nice building block for us,” said Bruce Cassidy. “I loved his performance. He’s a battler. He got swimming a couple of times, but that’s Dobby. He keeps it interesting for you. He’s a battler and he always has been. That’s what we needed tonight.”

One could spend days analyzing Cassidy's words and wondering much of that was deserved, appreciative praise for Khudobin, and how much of that might have been a veiled message to Boston's No. 1 goaltender sitting back home in Boston. 

The best save of the night probably won’t even count as a save for the Russian netminder. It was John Tavares, after having beaten Khudobin once in the first period, moving into the offensive zone with speed during a third period power play, and getting an open look at the net front in the high slot. Khudobin thought quickly and dropped into the unconventional double-stack pad save that seemed to throw Tavares off just a little, and the Isles sniper smoked the shot off the crossbar rather than tying up the game.

“I didn’t touch it. I didn’t really have time to get there, so the only thing I tried to do was the two-pad stack, old school Bob Essensa-style,” said Khudobin, who has now improved to 6-5-1 with a 2.60 goals against and an .899 save percentage this season. “Then he hit the crossbar. You need to get some luck in this league, and if you don’t get luck you’re going to lose games.”

A little luck and a little good, old-fashioned battling between the pipes was enough for Khudobin and the Bruins in Saturday night’s mammoth win. Now the questions become whether or not to go right back to Khudobin again on Tuesday at home against the Nashville Predators.