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

Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

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Sweeney: 'Helpless feeling' hoping World Cup players return healthy

BRIGHTON, Mass. – It’s a bit of a helpless feeling for an NHL general manager watching their star players participate in an intense hockey tournament like the World Cup of Hockey that doesn’t directly benefit their respective teams.

Not helpless because of the tournament’s outcome, obviously, but helpless because players could return from Toronto dinged up, or even worse significantly injured.

Aaron Ekblad had to shut it down for Team North American with what many speculated was a concussion, and Pittsburgh goalie Matt Murray is out a month, or more, with a broken hand sustained playing for the same young guns team.

So, it certainly must have been an uneasy few moments for Don Sweeney when Brad Marchand was pulled from Team Canada’s last game for the concussion protocol after a nasty-looking collision with Team Europe forward Marian Hossa.

Marchand went through the testing, and ended up returning to the game no worse for the wear. But it could have been a lot worse for a Bruins team that can’t afford to be missing Marchand, Patrice Bergeron or Zdeno Chara, who are still playing for teams alive in the semifinal round of the tourney.

“I would expect all of us to have been in a similar situation. For everybody - any general manager, coaches, staff, you're concerned about [injuries],” said Sweeney, talking about the World Cup and Marchand’s close call. “I mean, especially when you realize the stakes are going to go up as the tournament goes along. The pride involved - it's a risk. There's no question, it's a risk.

“But you also want to see them play their best hockey and they're not going to hold back. Yeah, it's a definite concern. You've got your fingers and toes crossed.”

David Pastrnak and Tuukka Rask have already returned to Boston fully healthy. David Backes should be joining the team anytime now after Team USA’s rude dismissal from the tournament. But Sweeney and the Bruins still have their sensors out for the three B’s players taking part that aren’t quite out of the woods yet before returning to B’s camp in one piece. 

 

Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

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Bruins lose Vatrano for three months after foot surgery

BRIGHTON, Mass. – The first bad break of Bruins camp arrived on Saturday with the news that scoring winger Frank Vatrano will be out three months after tearing a couple of ligaments in his left foot.

The 21-year-old winger from UMass and East Longmeadow, Mass., sustained the injury training just prior to the B’s fitness testing for camp and will have surgery on Monday at Mass General Hospital with Dr. George Theodore.

Vatrano had missed the first two days of camp after participating in captain’s practice just about right until the start of main training camp, so the injury must have happened just prior to Thursday’s off-ice testing.

“He had an injury just prior to testing, and it took a couple of days to make sure he had the proper evaluation. He saw a specialist yesterday and he’s scheduled for surgery on Monday,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney. “One or two of the ligaments were torn when he was doing some running, so he’s out.”

The injury is a big blow for a Bruins team that clearly had plans on Vatrano filling out a top-six role and leaves the door wide open for a young players Danton Heinen, Jake DeBrusk, Zach Senyshyn or Peter Cehlarik to win an NHL job out of camp. Perhaps a veteran such as camp invite Peter Mueller could secure a job when it didn’t appear to be any room on the NHL roster just a few days ago.

Either way it’s damaging to a Bruins team that was relying on goal-scoring and explosive forward play from a guy who topped 40 goals combined in the NHL and AHL last season.

“Obviously it’s a blow. Frankie looked at as an opportunity to [win a top-6 spot]. We all did. How that was going to play out remained to be seen, but he was going to be afforded a position to see if he could grab hold of it,” said Sweeney. “So obviously, he’s disappointed, and we are as well. You look at as with all injuries…it’s a setback. But the doctors feel very good that three months from now he’ll be able to play and move forward.”

It’s not officially NHL training camp until a major injury strikes, so now the Bruins are in the middle of it after learning they’ll lose Vatrano until Christmastime. 

Here's Vatrano's "Countdown to camp" profile