By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON -- Claude Julien is a conservative coach in many regards, and it certainly manifests itself when it comes to young players and playoff lineups.
Phil Kessel, then in his second year but coming off a 19-goal season, was benched for the first four games of the Bruins' opening-round playoff series against top-seeded Montreal in 2007-08. Julien reinstated Kessel for the final three games, and he responded with three goals and an assist, but the move permanently poisoned the relationship between player and coach and was one of the big reasons Kessel wanted out when he became a free agent.
Tyler Seguin isn't Phil Kessel. He's outgoing, diligent and conscientious with his teammates in ways that the introverted Maple Leafs sniper never was. But it looks as if he's going to get the Kessel treatment when the Bruins open the playoffs . . . and he's not happy about it.
Seguin was a healthy scratch Wednesday night against the Islanders and, if comments made by general manager Peter Chiarelli on 98.5 The Sports Hub Wednesday morning are any indication, that may happen in the postseason, as well. Chiarelli said Seguin sitting during the playoffs is the way it looks to be trending, but the competition isnt over yet.
Seguin was one of five players -- Michael Ryder, Patrice Bergeron, Shawn Thornton and Chris Kelly were the others -- who participated in an optional skate Wednesday morning and, in brief comments to reporters afterwards, said he wanted to play.
Im sure Ill talk to coaches about it and theyll tell me why if Im scratched, said Seguin. Of course I want to be in there playing.
Seguin has only one goal in his last 16 games. But its undeniable he's played better, faster and stronger down the stretch, and tasting the playoffs is something beneficial to his development.
The problems: Ryder has 9 goals and 18 points in 24 Stanley Cup playoff games with the Bruins over the last two seasons, and Daniel Paille is playing his best hockey of the season over the last two weeks. Both of those players could potentially serve in a fourth-line capacity.Julien spoke after the win about the tough decisions facing the coaching staff when it comes to playing time and choosing a roster headed into the postseason, and simple fact there are no easy choices. Ideally rest would be a good thing for players like Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, but he wasn't sure if it was coming or not."Those are tough questions to answer right now as Im sitting here because we dont know whats going on with the rest of the schedule and other teams that are playing: the opportunity to move up and maybe not," said Julien. "Its a balance of making sure that you try and get your team ready for the playoffs and some of it might mean that players have to play and we cant sit 10 guys out. "Weve only got a couple extra Ds and weve got an extra forward here, so you know, its pick and choose. As I said this morning, you pull a guy out and all of a sudden, another guy gets hurt and youre going to be told, Why didnt you pull him out? I didnt know he was going to get hurt versus the other guy. So these are things that you deal with. At the same time, players want to play. They really do. I think there might be a possibility in the last game or if something happens in the next couple of days, well look at the standings and make that decision at that time." Steve Kampfer was sent down to the Providence Bruins on Wednesday night following the win over the Islanders at TD Garden. The 22-year-old defenseman, however, will still take part in the Cuts for a Cause charity sponsored in part by 98.5 The Sports Hubs Toucher and Rich Show.
There was some good-natured chatter on thebench after Shawn Thornton picked up his career-best 10th goal of the season in the first period after missing three games with a 40-stitch slice on his forehead. Claude Julien poked fun at Thornton's defenseman capabilities while also praising the B's enforcer for his offensive accomplishments this year. "I think everybody is happy for him, anytime you hit double digits," said Julien. "His comment to me was, hopefully I can get an assist tonight, so I can be ten and ten, instead of ten and nine. Because hes looking a little selfish with more goals than assists."
Prior to Wednesday nights game against the Islanders, the Bruins handed out their annual awards.
-- The Eddie Shore Award, presented by the Gallery Gods for "exceptional hustle and determination", went to Thornton, who set career highs in goals (10) and assists (9) this season.
"I'm very honored and humbled by the award even though I feel like maybe this could have gone to my centerman as well," said Thornton referring to Gregory Campbell. "The guy the award was named after wasn't too bad of a player at all, was he?"
-- The Elizabeth Dufresne Trophy, for his outstanding performance during home games as chosen by the Boston Chapter of the PWHA, went to goalie Tim Thomas.
-- The Bruins Three Stars Awards, chosen by 98.5 The Sports Hub, were presented to the three players who have contributed the most to the teams success this season during home games. The Number One Star was Thomas, the Number Two Star was Patrice Bergeron, and the Number Three Star was Milan Lucic.
In addition to the awards, the Boston Bruins Foundation and the Boston Chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association (PHWA) will make a 20,000 donation that will be divided among two local charitable organizations: One Mission and WriteBoston.