Haggerty: Seguin ready for playoff action


Haggerty: Seguin ready for playoff action

By JoeHaggerty

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

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

Haggerty: Subban looking more like a 1st-round bust than NHL goalie

BOSTON -- Malcolm Subban still believes he can be a No. 1 goaltender in the NHL.

While that sort of sheer, brazen self-confidence is admirable -- especially after getting yanked from a 5-0 loss to the Minnesota Wild at TD Garden Tuesday -- pretty much all the evidence points to the contrary. Given a shot because of injuries to Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin, nearly two years after getting pulled from his only other NHL appearance when he gave up three goals on six shots in St. Louis, Subban was taken out Tuesday night after allowing three goals on eight second-period shots.

He maintained a defiantly confident tone afterwards, a testament to his maturity and mental toughness.

“It sucks," said Subban, who has now allowed six goals on 22 career shots faced in two starts. “Obviously, I’m just trying to finish the game, let alone win one . . . but what can you do now, right?

"Obviously I want to be a No. 1 goaltender in the league. I was a [first-round draft choice] for a reason. I have the potential, and I just have to show it. Obviously I haven’t done that so far yet, but I think I’m getting closer to it. Honestly, I think I can do it right now. I just got to show it . . . I didn’t [do it] today, but tomorrow’s a new day.”

Given the stunningly bad quality of his two NHL starts, combined with a thoroughly pedestrian body of work at the AHL level over the last three years, there is literally zero evidence Subban is tracking to be a franchise goaltender. Meanwhile, a sizeable selection of goaltenders taken after him in the 2012 NHL Draft have proven their worth and advanced to the elite level: Matt Murray. Frederik Anderson. Connor Hellebuyck. Joonas Korpisalo.

Subban was hoping all along to break through this season in Boston, but things went south on him quickly Tuesday in his first chance to do so.

Hampered by a Bruins team not playing well in front of him, the first goal he allowed was a fluttering Charlie Coyle shot that trickled between his glove hand and the top of his leg pad. The third was a softie low and to the glove side, a power-play strike authored by Ryan Suter. Instead of hanging in and giving his team a chance to win, Subban helped put the Bruins in a hole they couldn't escape.

While Claude Julien felt the poor performance "could be a combination" of goaltending and overall defensive lapses, he didn't let Subban off the hook.

“There are some goals -- I’m not going to lie -- there are some goals that we thought our goaltenders should have had," said the coach.

But he also wasn't going to place the blame solely at Subban's feet.

"[I’m] not here to talk about a goaltender -- who’s in one of his first few games -- because he let in a couple of bad goals,” said Julien. “We were terrible in front of him . . .  and that’s the big picture. That’s more important.

“I don’t care who’s in net. I think when you have some injuries you need to be better in those situations and we weren’t good enough tonight. It doesn’t matter if Tuukka is in net and we had injuries up front, or we’re lacking players here or there. You’ve got to let the system take care of the game. If you play it the right way, you have a chance to win. When you don’t, you don’t. That’s what happened [against Minnesota].”

There’s no question the defense in front of Subban wasn’t nearly good enough. Adam McQuaid and Torey Krug in particular struggled to lock things down in the defensive zone. The wide-open shots from the slot -- like the Chris Stewart score in the second period 12 seconds after Minnesota’s opening goal -- are indicative of a hockey club that’s not sticking to the game plan once things start to get a little wonky.

But this is about a player (Subban) who should be entering the NHL stage of his career after being a first-round pick in 2012. Anybody would be hard-pressed to see him as an NHL goalie after his two Bruins appearances. Combine that with the lack of dominance at the AHL level over the last three years, and there’s a better chance that Subban will be a major first-round bust rather than a late-blooming No. 1 goaltender.

The scary part is that Subban and fellow young netminder Zane McIntyre are all the Bruins have for Wednesday night’s game against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, and perhaps longer if Rask can’t make a rapid recovery from his lower body injury.

Maybe Subban can be a bit better than he’s shown thus far, and, to be fair, the three goals allowed to Minnesota weren't all his fault. The bottom line, however, is that he should be up for doing this job right now. Tuesday was a big chance for the young goalie to make a statement that he was ready for it.

Instead he looked like the same goalie who'd been pulled from two of his first four AHL starts this season, one who's never going to truly be ready for the call in Boston.