Bruins notes: Seguin's learning curve continues


Bruins notes: Seguin's learning curve continues

By Joe Haggerty

VANCOUVER Tyler Seguin dazzled in the opening few games of the conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and showed exactly what all of the fuss was about.

No matter what happens for the rest of the playoff run, the four-point second period in Game Two against Tampa Bay will go down as the first real moment Seguin had during his Bruins career. The problem with having those kinds of moments: people come to expect them much more often.

Seguin has gone scoreless in the six games since putting on a show against the Lightning in Game Two, and registered the lowest ice time total of his playoff experience in Game One of the Cup Finals against the Canucks. The 19-year-old got power play time and got a few shifts early in the game to get into the flow of things, but was nowhere to be found on the ice in the third period when things started tightening up against Vancouver.

Bs coach Claude Julien noticeably cut the ice time in a tight playoff game, so naturally the questions of Whats Wrong with Seguin? rolled around on Fridays media availability at the University of British Columbia practice facility.

The quick and easy answer from Julien: nothing at all aside from the normal learning process due a young player in his first playoff experience.

I don't think there's any specific reason. There are a lot of guys that have gone scoreless in those six games as well, said Julien. He's 19 years old. We don't expect him to carry our team on his back.

After the first two games in Tampa, they certainly were respectful of him a lot more than they were in the first two games, they realized the damage he could make happen. Good players have to find ways to fight through that. This is the opportunity that Tyler has to gain even more experience in regards to that.

The Bruins could definitely use another Seguin offensive explosion against a Canucks team that marks the fastest hockey team theyve encountered in the playoffs, and its that possibility that will keep him in the Boston lineup. Seguin wasnt a part of the four-minute power play in the first period that enjoyed some pretty solid pressure against Vancouver, but needs more than a minute of power play ice time to put together a scoring chance or two.

That will be Seguins challenge heading into Game Two, and Seguins teammates think he should be up to the ask if called upon.

He's handled it really well, said Milan Lucic. Obviously his situation is a lot different than mine being a second overall pick compared to me, who surprised a lot of people by just making the team. He had a lot of expectations coming in, a lot of people around him.

Our leadership group and our veteran players have helped him mature throughout the season. I think a sign of that was you see how he responded after sitting out the first two series of the playoffs. He was able to step in and play the way that he did. He was professional about it. He wasn't pouting that he wasn't in the lineup. He wasn't being a bad guy because he wasn't in the lineup. He understood what was going on. It's great to see him grow as a player and as a person, as an 18-year-old turning 19. Looking back how I dealt with it, it's kind of the same way.

No matter what happens over the next six games against the Canucks, the experience earned by Seguin in this playoff run will serve both him and the Bruins well for years and years to come.

The Bruins and Milan Lucic didnt seem to have a big problem with the big Dan Hamhuis hit in the second period of Game One that flipped Bostons power forward upside down on his way to the ice. It could have been a lot more dangerous had Lucic landed on his neck rather than his back, but instead Hamhuis was the player injured as a result of the collision.

It's the first time I've ever actually been hit like that and gone all the way over, said Lucic. It's obviously unfortunate for the Canucks that Hamhuis got hurt. If it was late, it was late. But you can't change anything from what happened in it.

Brad Marchand got speared near the benches in the second period and took a reactionary holding penalty in Game One against the Canucks that could have been costly. The Bs penalty kill managed to stymie the Vancouver power play, but both coach and player thats one mistake that cant be made too often in this series.

I think we have to be disciplined no matter what. Marchand is part of that too. Obviously the penalty he took wasn't a good penalty in Game One, said Julien. We know that's happened at times with Brad with the type of game that he plays. We certainly want him to improve in that area and minimize those kinds of things.

But he understands. He knows once he does it, he takes ownership for it.

We keep talking about discipline, even if we didn't let them score in the power-play last game, they still have a potent power-play. We have to make sure that our penalties are good ones and most set of times when they're good ones, you end up killing them.

Zdeno Chara said that part of the joy of being paired with Dennis Seidenberg during the playoffs is the endless endurance supply both players seem to have in common and the common conditioning practices that allow both to log high ice time minutes throughout the playoffs.

Perhaps its a European thing, or perhaps its just two players thoroughly dedicated to their craft.

Its very exciting. He's a very steady defenseman. He really picked up his game, especially offensively, logging a lot of minutes, playing all the situations, said Zdeno Chara. We are both same, I would say, as far as off-ice workouts. We like to do always extra, being fit. He's just one of those guys that's been really fun to play with.

Theres been a careful balance of give-and-take between work and rest for Milan Lucic during his time in Vancouver the Stanley Cup Final, and its been closely watched by the Bruins staff. The natural tendency would be to overwhelm a guy in his hometown with media requests and scores of interviews, but Lucic himself said hell be around Vancouver after the season is over to catch up those wanting to touch base with him.

I think it's a give-and-take. You have to understand that Lucic in his hometown. Certainly you want to please those people to a certain extent, but at the same time you don't want it to be a detriment to his preparation and rest and everything else, said Julien. Our media guys have done a pretty good job of balancing that out. He does a little bit of both: get the rest that he needs and does as much as he can to please the people from around here.

From the Bruins' P.R. department:

Black and Gold fever has hit the city of Boston with monster truck force, and that apparently includes the landmarks around the Hub starting this weekend. The Bruins and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) are proud to partner with OSRAM SYLVANIA, North America's leading lighting company, to light Boston's landmark Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge beginning Friday, June 3.

Forty-eight lights that line the Zakim Bridge will be converted to gold to celebrate the Boston Bruins participation in the Stanley Cup Final. The Zakim Bridge will remain gold throughout the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Final run.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Friday, May 6: Boudreau excited at prospect of coaching Senators


Friday, May 6: Boudreau excited at prospect of coaching Senators

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while fairly certain I’ll never be buying Tom Brady’s $200 cookbook:

-- Good piece on NBC’s Inside the Glass man Pierre McGuire, who is once again doing yeoman’s work during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

-- Bruce Boudreau is excited at the prospect of coaching the Senators as he readies for an interview with Ottawa. Boudreau would be a good fit there, given his past history with offensively talented teams.

-- Down Goes Brown lists their top-10 old guys without a Stanley Cup whose playoff hopes are still alive in this current postseason.

-- You’ve got to love the fancy stats crew that, when their team is down 3-1 in a playoff series, contends it’s all based on luck. No, it’s based on the other team scoring more goals than your team rather than which team is winning the puck-possession battle.

-- FOH (Friend of Haggs) and PHT writer Jason Brough has San Jose Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer ripping the goalie interference replay system, saying it’s been “clear as mud” all season after it cost the Sharks in their triple-overtime loss to Nashville. It feels like he’s got a point: I thought the Joe Pavelski goal should have been a game-winner too rather than be waved off for goalie interference.

-- It looks like the mighty have fallen quite: Stephane Da Costa isn’t on France’s World Championships roster after being in the NHL a couple of years ago. Or maybe the mighty are just hurt after playing last season in the KHL. It’s tough to tell at this point for the former Merrimack hockey star.

-- The massive nation of China is becoming a growing incubator for budding young hockey players and could become a new resource for the NHL.

-- For something completely different: For a Lego commercial for Star Wars movies that still don’t come out for almost a year, this is pretty great.

Time for a tough transition


Time for a tough transition

This is the fifth and final installment of a five-part series about the breakdowns that doomed the team this season, and what must change for the Black and Gold to once again get moving in the right direction. 

Casual Bruins fans probably thought they were getting a Shawn Thornton-type player when Boston traded a third-round pick to the Philadelphia Flyers for Zac Rinaldo last summer.

Instead it was a deal that was a win in the ledger of Flyers GM Ron Hextall from the very second it was approved by the NHL’s central registry. Hardcore hockey fans knew the Bruins-Rinaldo marriage had little chance of ever working out.

Rinaldo is a physical player who likes to wildly throw the body around. He has above-average skating ability and is fearless, as evidenced by the much bigger, stronger players he tangles with on a regular basis. But there's no comparison between a cheap-shot artist like Rinaldo and a genuine enforcer like Thornton, who struck a tone of intimidation with opponents whenever he was in the Bruins lineup. Thornton gave the B's an air of toughness and courage, and was one of the unquestioned leaders in the dressing room, able to command both respect and accountability.

Thornton's final year in Boston wasn’t without its challenges, given the lengthy suspension he received for knocking out Brooks Orpik at center ice and the needless water-bottle-spraying incident with P.K. Subban in that season's playoffs. But one thing is certain: Thornton would never have watched Adam McQuaid get train-wrecked from behind on a dirty hit by Washington’s Zach Sill, and then simply skate to the bench. That, however, was the reaction of Rinaldo when Sill hit McQuaid this season.

Rinaldo explained his non-actions by saying he was tired at the end of his shift and wary of getting in trouble with the league. He left it to Patrice Bergeron to grab hold of Sill, even though that sort of retaliation is exactly what the Bruins were expecting from Rinaldo when they brought him to Boston in the first place.

It was similar to the hesitation 6-foot-6 Jimmy Hayes showed at times as the opposition pushed around his linemates, or took runs at other Bruins players while he was on the ice. Hopefully Hayes learned that he needs to knock that indecision out of his game if he’s going to be effective here.

But it all speaks to a bigger issue: The change in the makeup of the Bruins, and the need to get back to a tougher, more intimidating style of play.

During their seven-year playoff run, the Bruins earned a reputation as one of the hardest teams to play against in the NHL. Players like Thornton, McQuaid, Milan Lucic, Zdeno Chara, Nathan Horton, Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk had size and strength, and were hard-hitting and tough when it was called for.

Very few teams messed with the Bruins. If they did, there was a good chance it would explode into a back-alley brawl . . . like the night when virtually all the Bruins went to war with Sean Avery, Steve Ott and the rest of the Dallas Stars:

It didn’t matter how those teammates felt about each other off the ice. It was no secret that Ference and Mark Recchi had their differences early in their time in Boston, stemming from things that were happening within the NHLPA. But that didn’t stop Ference from jumping to Recchi’s defense when he got smashed in the open ice by David Backes:

That should be the standard for any Bruins team when opponents start to take cheap shots, simply because it makes the B's much more difficult to handle. There were too many nights last season when the Bruins simply didn’t want to battle out on the ice. Not coincidentally, there were also too many nights when they buckled under the bright spotlights of big games.

"We’ve shown some positive stretches and things that we’ve done well . . . " said Chara. "But when times were [there] to fold up or respond, we always kind of find ourselves taking steps backwards. That was one of the things that was disappointing, and frustrating."

Those things might happen a little less if they returned to the previous standard of intensity, engagement and urgency.

That might be easier said than done, but it all starts with the players the Bruins are bringing into the fold.

Matt Beleskey is a prime example of a callback to those previous B’s teams: The kind of hard-hitting, high-energy gamer who would have fit in perfectly with the Stanley Cup-era squads. While the Bruins seemingly missed on Hayes and Rinaldo, they hit -- in the best way -- with the free-agent signing of the hard-nosed, no-nonsense Beleskey. He changed momentum in games with massive hits thrown on the ice, led the club in registered hits last season, and showed up in many of last season’s big-game disappointments when so many others did not.

The Bruins simply need more players like Beleskey, and who preferably can also play the game at a similarly high, or even higher, level. 

Torey Krug is often the smallest guy on the ice, but never stops fighting against XXL-sized opponents while refusing to give in on any level. He even dropped the gloves with the massive Chris Stewart, the very definition of courage (with perhaps a little insanity thrown in for good measure).

Noel Acciari is another young player who energized the fourth line toward the end of the regular season with his fearless style of play. He's unafraid to throw violent but clean hits against even the biggest of opponents while bringing energy and thump to the lineup. He didn’t quite get the hang of the offensive game at the NHL level during his brief audition, but the hope is that will change with a little more experience.

Players like Beleskey and Acciari speak to the Bruins’ acknowledgement that regaining their traditional identity is important, and it’s something they did intermittently last season.

“I still think we have room to improve in that area," said president Cam Neely. "I believe the group [last year] was a closer group; they enjoyed playing for each other and working hard for each other. I thought . . . aside from a couple stretches, we were a team that showed more passion probably than the year prior. But it’s still an area we need to improve upon.”

Most importantly for Neely, general manager Don Sweeney, coach Claude Julien and the Jacobs' ownership group is the need to understand how important their fan base feels about that style of play. The loyal Bruins followes can forgive quite a bit if they feel their team is hustling, working hard and fighting for each other at every turn.

That’s the bare minimum the Bruins should be striving for next season. A lot of good things could start happening if they get back to those basics.