Seguin not sweating his goal count

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Seguin not sweating his goal count

WILMINGTON, MA Tyler Seguin is aware that hes scored only one non-empty net goal in his first 11 games of the season.

The 21-year-old is still getting the invitations to be the cover boy for the Improper Bostonian and there are still No. 19 Seguin jerseys all over the TD Garden stands at home games. So the heat and sizzle is still there for Seguin as the young darling of the Boston sports scene, but hes also going through the first real offensive struggles of his career with the Bruins in whats been a charmed hockey existence.

Im not scoring. Ive had opportunities and Im not bearing down on some of them. But Im playing good in my defensive zone, said Seguin. Im just shooting. Ive been trying a lot of different things. Maybe I was a little too cute at first, but not Im just trying to get pucks on net.

I know eventually that a couple will go in and Ill go on a roll. I just need to stay with it and bear down.

His coach, Claude Julien, said after Thursdays practice that its a matter of Seguin pushing himself to get a little more out of his game offensively. The Bruins are currently middle-of-the-road offensively while averaging just 2.7 goals per game, and that mark couldshould rise significantly once Seguin goes on a goal-scoring tear.

We know we can get more out of him. Its a matter of pushing him and its a matter of him pushing himself, said Julien. He hasnt been a poor player, but I think there is more thats expected of him. I think theres more that he can give us.

Hes still a young player. You can squish him and make it worse, or you can try to help him through it. You can push the right buttons to get his game back to where it should be.

Theres little doubt that is true, but theres also plenty to like about the game hes currently putting up. Hes second on the Bruins with 34 shots squeezed off in 11 games and he leads the team with a plus-8 rating while ranking sixth on Boston with six points this season.

But expectations have been raised for the All-Star forward in his third season, and there are whispers out there that Seguin isnt battling hard enough. Hes not taking it hard enough to the net and the young forward is shying away from contact, and thats why the goals havent been as plentiful. While its true that Tyler Seguin is never going to play the walls like a bruising Milan Lucic, that will never be the case for a 6-foot-1, 182-pound forward built to score goals and create offensively.

When Seguin was asked if his compete level is the problem, thats not exactly how he sees it.

I dont agree with that at all. If you go look at my shifts its not like Im losing battles all over the ice or anything like that. You cant explain it, said Seguin, who had 4 goals and 11 points along with a plus-8 after his first 11 games last season. When theyre going in theyre going in, and when theyre not, then theyre not. Were 11 games in and we still have a long way to go.

Im not going to say Im worried. Im just trying to be even more focused as the days go on here that Ill start putting them in. Im not about to quit the game quite yet.

The biggest thing Seguin has going for him while not firing on all cylinders offensively: the team is still winning hockey games. The microscope would be trained with a great deal more scrutiny on Seguins struggles if the Bruins werent off to an 8-1-2 start in their first 11 games.

Instead Seguin has managed to fly under the radar ever so slightly while he attempts to find the goal-scoring range, and Julien attempts to push the right buttons that will suddenly turn his puck phenom back into a scoring machine.

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

Haggerty: Bruins plan to take it slow with McAvoy, unless . . .

BRIGHTON -- Nobody doubts that 19-year-old Charlie McAvoy is going to be a game-changer down the road for the Boston Bruins.

The Boston University sophomore, expected to be in the NHL next season, is the crown jewel of a draft-and-development movement led by general manager Don Sweeney over the last three years. And if McAvoy hits the ground running with the Providence Bruins over the weekend, he may even make his NHL debut with the Bruins sometime in the next 10 days, even though playing in as much as a single game with Boston this season would burn a year off his entry-level contract.

"[The NHL] is still to be determined. It will be contract first and [the AHL] as a good first step for us," said Sweeney after signing McAvoy to an ATO (Amateur Tryout Agreement). "He's made the decision to leave [college] and we're excited about that process. It leaves some options open [for McAvoy], but first and foremost gets him playing and acclimated to pro hockey."

But there's also the reality that a 19-year-old like McAvoy is going to face challenges in pro hockey. Mastering the defenseman position at the NHL level is an extremely complicated process. It's the reason we see a lot more teenage forwards take the league by storm than teenage D-men, who typically need more development time in the AHL to hone their skills at both ends of the rink.

"[The challenge] would be getting him to figure out what works at this level and what doesn't, just like if he were in Providence," said interim coach Bruce Cassidy about the theoretical possibility of McAvoy playing in Boston soon. "We've used seven defensemen here over the last eight weeks and they've done a good job for us, so we'd have to see where he fit in and go from there . . . I've seen him here and there, but I don't know enough about his individual game at this point to know what he would specifically need to do . . .

"[Defense] is a tougher position in the NHL because mistakes are magnified. If you're a forward you've got another layer of defense to support you, so you can get away with some of that stuff. I think that's why you see generally that most of the rookies that age in the NHL are forwards."

Torey Krug signed with the Bruins out of college five years ago and had a one-game cameo with them before spending the entire next season in Providence. Krug says now that, looking back, he knows he wasn't ready to play in the NHL coming out of school and needed a season to sort things out defensively against bigger, stronger, smarter and faster opponents.

"The speed itself wasn't much of an issue, but if you fall asleep even for a second it's going to turn into a scoring chance for the other team," Krug said of the adjustment from college hockey to the NHL. "These games are not easy to play in, even for veterans in the league . . .

"I thought offensively I was ready [right away], but defensively I had a lot to learn. It's a tough league to play in. Offensively it was fun, but defensively I had my share of hiccups realizing I had to go down to Providence to work on some things."

McAvoy isn't expected to follow Krug's path. He'll get development opportunities at the AHL level at the end of this season just like fellow young D-man Brandon Carlo, who used last spring's AHL experience to vault directly into the NHL this season as a 19-year-old playing top-four minutes right from opening night.

It's also the track taken by Zach Werenski last year with the Columbus Blue Jackets. An AHL playoff run fully prepped him for his breakout season as the league's best rookie defenseman.

"It's a long time ago, but I used that [ATO] myself as a benefit and I've always been an advocate of it, and I think Robbie O'Gara, Danton Heinen and Carlo all [did it]," said Sweeney. "All the players that have been able to come on and play at a very high level against men, generally in a playoff stretch drive or the playoffs themselves, it's a unique [experience].

"When you first turn pro, you're introduced to it at a really high level and you have to adjust to it on the fly. It's about structure and understanding the voices you're hearing. And reading and reacting at the pro level are all very important [skills]. [I think] it's a great on-the-job training exercise and right now Brandon is the best example of it. He's been able to jump into our lineup this year, and that's a testament to him and also the work he did last year."

So the Bruins should take their time with McAvoy, though also allow that he could be a dominant exception to the rule and become a force right out of the chute. It certainly appears Sweeney is going to leave that door ajar,  to make sure the Bruins don't miss out on anything with a young defenseman who's already drawn comparisons to Norris Trophy winner Drew Doughty.

Bruins still in waiting mode on Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork

Bruins still in waiting mode on Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson, Anders Bjork

BRIGHTON, Mass – While the NHL debut for Charlie McAvoy is a matter of “when” rather than “if” at this point after agreeing to an Amateur Tryout Contract (ATO) with the Boston Bruins, the jury is still out on Boston University center Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and University of Notre Dame winger Anders Bjork become pros. 

Bruins general manager Don Sweeney says that Forsbacka-Karlsson has yet to make a “final decision” on his status for next season after BU’s elimination from the NCAA hockey tournament, and Bjork is readying for the Frozen Four this weekend along with the rest of his Fighting Irish teammates. The 20-year-old Forsbacka-Karlsson just wrapped up his sophomore season with the Terriers and posted 14 goals and 33 points in 38 games with a plus-11 rating, and has not given the Bruins any firm word on his plans for the immediate future. 

The urgency perhaps isn’t there for the Bruins to lock things up with Forsbacka-Karlsson right this second, because he wouldn’t be a factor for this year’s NHL team. 

Meanwhile the Bruins can’t do anything with the 20-year-old Bjork until at least the end of next weekend, but have been mightily impressed with a player that’s posted 21 goals and 52 points in 38 games for Notre Dame this season. Bjork had three assists in the game that propelled Notre Dame into the Frozen Four, and there would be a great deal of urgency for the Bruins to lock up a talented forward that might be able to help them right now. 

“I’ve been able to see [Bjork] a few times including the regional [in New Hampshire] last weekend, and he was outstanding. He played every other shift, he set up goals in the game and he’s had a really nice progression as a college player this season,” said Sweeney of the explosive Notre Dame junior, who was far and away the best player at B's development camp last summer. “They’ve done a fabulous job with their team, and hopefully they get to the Finals on Saturday against Harvard, and we get the best of both worlds seeing how our prospects play in the final game. He’s had a tremendous college career to this point, and we’re excited about his development.”

McAvoy is the front-burner issue for the Bruins at this point, but it would surprise exactly nobody if both Forsbacka-Karlsson and Bjork join him in Providence in the next couple of weeks as they wrap up their AHL season.