Seguin starts to 'get it' as season winds down

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Seguin starts to 'get it' as season winds down

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com

WILMINGTON The Bruins are going through their worst stretch of the season, saddledwith road-weary legs after playing 12 of their last 16 games away from home.But through it all, Tyler Seguin is playing some of thebest hockey of his rookie season.

The grueling stretch has clearly had an effect on some of the older players like 43-year-oldMark Recchi (two points and a minus-2 in the last 10 games). But Seguin has been energized, witha goal and six shots on net in his last two games.

The 19-year-old has earned some power play time from coach Claude Julien in each of the last two games, and Seguin was easily Bostons best forward on the ice during the loss to Toronto Saturday night. He also impressively shook off a Patric Hornqvist elbow to the head in the first period against Nashville, and kept skating hard despite seven stitches to his left ear.

Its allbeen part of the natural progression for the Bs rookie.Seguin knows that good, consistent, competitive performances can mean helping his team and getting a better chance to crack the playoff lineup for Boston.He's way past Steve Stamkos comparisons and first-year point projections, and simply wants to add to the B's winning side of the ledger.

Its about finding what role youre going to have in this league and going after it, said Seguin. Im trying to get it whether its being involved in the play, or hitting and finishing checks just a little bit more. I think Im still just trying to find my way and do my best.

I know I still have a lot more in me. I have a ton to learn. Ive always been a statistical person and I know I can get a lot more points. But its been a slow process and Ive had some ups and downs. Its getting to crunch time in the season and I want to show everybody that Im ready to be here in the end. I want to win and want to have a championship, even if its in my first year. I want to be a part of that.

Seguin knows he wont be winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, or putting up gaudy first-yeartotals like Logan Couture or the now-injured Taylor Hall. But, conversely, there arent many lottery level draft picks witha legitimate chance at winning the Stanley Cup.
The understanding of team concept over individual accomplishments normally doesnt register with young players establishing themselves in the league. But Seguin has been an exception to the rule for many things, andhe understands what his team requires. There was actually a head-scratching column in the Edmonton Journallast month that took Seguin to task for putting team goals ahead of individual stuff like the Calder Trophy -- and seemed to have a problem with the youngster because he had his priorities in line.

It didnt happen overnight, of course -- there were long stretches with little progress early in the season -- but Julien gave Seguin a ringing endorsement recently that the rookie is really beginning to get things. And Seguin's mindset simply proves that his first-year progress has been a success, and continues to improve with each passing day.

Hes slowly getting better, said Julien. The things weve been working on with him are starting to pay off. Hes competing a little better, and when you compete a little better in certain areas then your skill level begins to take over.

The skill level we know is there, and its all about how he exposes it. I think he exposed it by competing in certain areas and making sure he has the puck on his stick. He has to play with the puck, and I think hes been a lot better with regard to that.

Some of Seguins transformation over the last month came on the heels of a pair of healthy scratches against the Canadiens and Red Wings in big Februarygames. The message from the coaching staff was received loud and clear by Seguin; he's stepped up his battle in every zone on the ice, and consequently becomestronger on and off the puck.

Nobody expectsSeguin to hammer players through the boards or turn into a Milan Lucic-style hitting machine, but that doesnt mean there arent players he can emulate while developing into a two-way center. The two registered hits against the Maple Leafs were eye-opening, consideringthathe understandably shied away from contact earlier this year.

Seguin is quick to say he aims to be his own player, but he's also smart enough to know that he can learn quite a bit from watching Patrice Bergeron go about his business.

Bergeron is the consummate two-way center in the defensive and offensive ends of the ice, and thats the kind of player Seguin aspires to be.

I think my whole life Ive always wanted to be a good all-around player and a good leader, and Bergie is definitely all of those things, said Seguin. Bergeron isa very focused guy, and all of the guys in the room respect him for that. I think in the end you have to have your own game, so I dont want to be Patrice Bergeron. But everything he does is goodfrom theD-zone to his skill, and the way hes positioned on the PK and the PP. You can throw him in any situation, and thats who I want to be in the future.

Obviously Im not 220 pounds, so when some of the bigger boys finish their checks then I might fall down. But I want to be more involved. I want to take anything I can get, and I want to win.

The first step to becoming a winning player is actually learning what it takes to win, and it seems that Seguin is getting it at the tail end of an eucational first season in the NHL.

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

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

Haggerty: No move may be the best move for Bruins at deadline

The NHL trade deadline is now less than a week away, with plenty of movement expected despite the perpetual lack of sellers, and an expansion draft perhaps preventing some teams from taking on players they will then need to protect. 

The Bruins shouldn’t be much of a seller as long as they can continue their current good stretch for three more games before the March 1 deadline. The expansion draft shouldn’t be much of a scare either based on the players {Adam McQuaid, Kevan Miller, Malcolm Subban) they might be in danger of losing to the Vegas Golden Knights this summer.

With the Bruins currently outside of a playoff spot by virtue of the one game in hand held by the Florida Panthers (both teams have 66 points vying for the final wild-card spot), it would be no surprise if GM Don Sweeney wanted to be a buyer at the deadline for a Boston roster that could use a big top-six winger with finishing ability, a top-four defenseman that can move the puck and a backup goaltender should Anton Khudobin have any more struggles this season.

The Bruins and Avalanche had been talking steadily in recent weeks about a possible deal for 24-year-old left wing Gabriel Landeskog, but those discussions have hit a standstill with Sweeney refusing to part with either Brandon Carlo or Charlie McAvoy in the trade package. That's the 100 percent right move for a Bruins team that shouldn't start trading away blue chip D-man prospects. 

Landeskog has made sense for the Black and Gold because he’s signed long term with a reasonable $5.7 million cap hit, and because he’d theoretically be a good, power forward fit alongside David Krejci.

It’s that type of trade Sweeney and the Bruins are looking to make for a young player with term that will be part of the long-term solution in Boston. They aren’t looking for a repeat of last season where they shipped off good future assets in exchange for pedestrian rental players Lee Stempniak and John-Michael Liles and missed the playoffs anyway after dipping into the trade market.

In other words, Sweeney doesn’t sound all that keen in dipping heavily into the rental market, for a Patrick Eaves or a Dmitry Kulikov for instance, as he did a year ago.  

“Do I think we have an opportunity to make the playoffs? Absolutely, there’s no question this group has a chance to get in. Whether or not I can find a player between now and the deadline that sort of fills all those gaps, that does remain to be seen,” said Sweeney at the time of the Claude Julien firing, prior to the current four-game winning streak. 

“But I think it dovetails with the fact that I’m not going to be short-sighted. I’m going to stick to the longer term view as to what I have put in place with the intention of being able to bridge and bringing in players like David Backes and surround our guys that we get a chance to win now and be competitive now.

“I’d prefer to err on the side of a player that will integrate into us on the longer-term. Last year, we gave up draft picks. I wasn’t prepared to move players that I felt in the same regard that teams had asked for in order to get a higher-level rental or a different kind of rental. I’m not going to deviate from what I said. Are there players and we have a surplus? That’s what I want to try and evaluate and find out whether or not we can deal from a position of strength.”

Some of that may change after a current four-game winning streak with a Bruins team that looks much more playoff-worthy than the aimless group that struggled through the first 55 games. But it would have to be the perfect rental at the right price for it to make sense for the Bruins this time around and chances are that might not materialize for a team just looking to hang in there until McAvoy, Anders Bjork, Jakob Forsbacka-Karlsson and Zach Senyshyn are ready to contribute a couple of years down the road.

So, would people be okay if Sweeney and the Bruins stand pat at the trade deadline if they can’t swing a big hockey deal for a young player like Landeskog who would be part of the long-term plan? Is it acceptable to just let it ride with the current group that has suddenly shown a different gear under interim head coach Bruce Cassidy, and bet on the core group rising to the occasion like they didn’t the last couple of years under Julien?

The answer from this humble hockey writer is that Sweeney should pass on anything less than a home run deal for the Black and Gold. The worst thing the Bruins GM could do is get in the way of the momentum that’s naturally starting to roll with his team, or make another severe misstep with his NHL talent evaluation. Right now, draft and development seem to be his strengths, and he should lean into those and away from being a wheeler dealer with wiser, more experienced managers around the NHL looking to once again rob the Black and Gold blind.

So, there’s a chance the Bruins do very little at the deadline and, after thinking about it, the fickle fans should be perfectly okay with that as they watch a newly transformed hockey club. 

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Wednesday, Feb. 22: Talking Bruins with Ray Ferraro

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while getting ready for the February heat wave headed our way.

*In the interest of self-promotion, here’s a podcast I did on Tuesday talking Bruins with former Hartford Whalers great and current outstanding TSN hockey analyst Ray Ferraro, who is also a great FOH (Friend of Haggs).

*Good piece on a Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster that has already gained plenty of internet plaudits for his great, and now legendary, Nick Bonino goal call in last year’s Stanley Cup playoffs.

*It’s never too early to look at this summer’s crop of NHL draft-eligible players. Right, Kevin Allen?

*Apparently Toronto Maple Leafs rookie Auston Matthews has his own rap song, so he’s got that going for him…which is nice.

*FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has James Wisniewski trying to revive his NHL career after a short stint in the KHL.

*There’s a call for Nashville backup Juuse Saros to get more playing time between the pipes for the Predators.

*Larry Brooks brings his always interesting take to the Bruins situation in allowing Claude Julien to take the head gig in Montreal, and said it all came down to money. Big surprise there. I think there was also a concern from the B’s about having another PR nightmare on their hands if it was perceived that they stepped in and didn’t allow Julien to gain employment someplace else, regardless of what waited for him in the offseason. It also tells me that the Bruins aren’t afraid of Julien coaching their arch-rivals, which makes perfect sense since they just fired him.

*For something completely different: the image of Woody Harrelson in the Falcon cockpit is both jarring and super awesome.