A thought-provoking series

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A thought-provoking series

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

This series is interesting.

I got to watch the first game of the Eastern Conference finals at close range. Well, kind of. Of all the floors lining the guts of TD Garden, my seat on the 9th floor was as high up as you could get. Not a bad place to take the whole scene in. The crowd's roars reached the rafters with an intensity I have never before heard in that building.

Surprisingly, it makes for a good place to think.

My eyes were two of the thousands on Tyler Seguin Saturday night. 'A final at age 19,' I marveled. 'Thrilling. Terrifying. There's probably a little peesicle frozen to his leg right now.' But then I scanned over 25-year old Nathan Horton, in full stride of his first career playoff run; Tim Thomas, 37-year old NHL journeyman; and 43-year old Stanley Cup champion Mark Recchi. None of these guys have represented Boston in the Eastern Conference finals. Every single member of this club is trying to do something no Bruins have done since the year Seguin was born, so that amount of pressure from the city rests evenly across all shoulders.

For one moment, Seguin didn't seem to feel it.

His goal was gorgeous. I could have watched him spin Mike Lundin down to the ice on loop. And that one, pretty move to fool Dwayne Roloson glove side made me wonder about all that hype. No doubt, the teenager didn't sleep a wink Friday night. But he's a goal-scorer. For everything else that blew Seguin away -- the lights, the banners, the noise, the cameras -- I bet he was calm as he rushed through the neutral zone.

Calm? Yes. Clean? Nope.

If we could freeze-frame the action when Seguin's working along the half-wall or in his own zone, pluck him out, and insert somebody else I'd do it in a heartbeat. Those are the areas where he reminded us of his inexperience. And that's where 19 years really means different things to different players.

Tuukka Rask is another guy I was thinking about.

Remember him? That other goalie. Last year's must-have, shutdown netminder. He was the guy I zeroed in on when Tim Thomas let up goal No. 3 on Saturday night. I was too far away to tell, but wanted to know if he craned his neck toward coach Claude Julien after Teddy Purcell scored. On reflex. Did he get his hopes up? Was he antsy as a Little League pitcher stuck riding the pine while the starter walks three straight batters? "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon. Put me in!" (Or whatever the Finnish equivalent is.) Obviously, it didn't happen. And it probably won't; Tim Thomas is expected to tighten up.

He'll need to.

Tampa got its big win without a goal from its top talent. The marksmen: Brett Clark, Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell, Marc-Andre Bergeron, and Simon Gagne. No St. Louis (one assist), no Lecavalier, and no Stamkos. That's going to change. Lecavalier had five shots Saturday night, including a brilliant opportunity in the first period that Thomas barely stopped with a sprawling save. And how about zero SOG from Steven Stamkos? We won't be seeing that again. The Bruins may be banking on Thomas tamping down, but they can also expect a heavier assault from Tampa's first two lines.

That when I considered Boston's power play.

Nah, just kidding. Not even going to go there. The Bruins have one huge piece of the PP puzzle missing in Marc Savard and another big other piece, Tomas Kaberle, is equally but less understandably useless. For spectators, Boston's man advantage is best for two-minute power naps or trips to the fridge to get another beer -- it's a fact like E = mc2 or "Pierre McGuire thinks James van Riemsdyk is a fine young man." (WHAMMO!) There's nothing more to say until the Bruins provide evidence to the contrary.

I can drink as many beers as I want tonight; I'm watching Game 2 at home. It'll be a lot quieter, that's for sure. But there'll still be plenty to think about.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

Vatrano takes 'step in the right direction' in return to practice

BRIGHTON, Mass -- The Bruins lost Matt Beleskey for six weeks to a knee injury this week, and now they’re hoping to get another winger back now that 22-year-old Frank Vatrano has rejoined the Bruins at practice.

Vatrano was wearing a red no-contact jersey at Tuesday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena, but his presence along with the other players at the team skate means that he’s moving closer toward a return to the B’s lineup. While initial timetables for his recovery from foot surgery had him in the early January range for returning to the Bruins lineup, it appears that he might be at least a couple of weeks ahead of that initial expectation.

Either way Vatrano is happy to be back on the ice with his teammates after the torn ligaments in his foot wiped out his training camp and the first two plus months of the regular season for him.

“It was a big step for me today. It was nice to be out there with the guys for the first time,” said Vatrano, who scored a combined 44 goals last season for Providence and Boston in a breakout season with the B’s organization. “I’ve gone through the rehab and done everything I need to do to get back playing, so now the next step is getting back on the ice with the guys. I felt great, so now it’s just waiting to hear the news when I start playing again.”

While Vatrano is still a young, relatively inexperienced player with just one full year of pro hockey under his belt, the sense from the Bruins is that he’s going to help a team that’s currently ranked 25th in the NHL in offense. Claude Julien was encouraged by seeing him out there in the red, no-contact jersey that his teammates were chirping him about, and said that his level play at last spring’s world championships should give him confidence when he jumps back into a big role with the Black and Gold.

“It’s a step in the right direction for Frank. That’s the best way for him to get to the pace of our game because it’s going to take a while when you’ve been out that long,” said Vatrano. “I think his experience at world championships last year is a real blessing in disguise because he gained a lot of confidence there. I think that’s going to help him a lot more than had he not gone.

“He played against a lot of elite players last year, and he fared really well. I think he’ll be coming in now with some confidence, and we just have to sure coming in that we give him every opportunity to succeed by using him properly, and giving him a chance to find his game.”

That certainly sounds like the Bruins are preparing for a top-6 role and maybe some power play time once the young, sharp-shooting Vatrano is back up to full speed. That should be fun to watch once he’s ready to play, and ready to again unleash that shot and release that rivals anybody else for tops on the Bruins roster. 

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

Spooner on trade rumors: 'I definitely want to play here'

BOSTON -- Ryan Spooner has definitely heard the reports out there that he’s being shopped in trade by the Boston Bruins, and he played like a guy that didn’t want to be moved in Monday’s win over the Florida Panthers at TD Garden.

Spooner had his good skating legs, created chances for his teammates and set up the third period goal that got the B’s into overtime when he flipped a shot at the net that was tipped in by David Backes while camped out around the crease. Spooner finished with an assist and a plus-1 rating along with five shot attempts in his 14:24 of ice time, and looked much more like the energized, creative player that was at the heart of some pretty good offensive things last season.

In other words, Spooner looked much more like the talented young player that finished with 13 goals and 49 points last season while centering the third line.

“I think there were five or six games there where I felt I wasn’t playing a bad game. Then six or seven games there where it was hard to get, I guess, the ice time that I wanted,” said Spooner. “At the end of the day, I’ve been a little bit inconsistent.

“I just have to go out there and use my speed and my skill and I found that in the game here. I thought that I did that and I just need to play with that, and I should be fine.”

Multiple sources have indicated to CSN New England that the Bruins are talking about a possible Ryan Spooner deal with multiple teams including the Carolina Hurricanes, San Jose Sharks and New York Islanders. Part of it is certainly the need for the Bruins to collect a bit more goal-scoring as Monday night’s win was just the eighth time in 26 games this season that Boston’s offense has scored more than two goals.

Part of it is also, however, a challenging season for Spooner where he’s been in and out of Claude Julien’s dog house while getting dropped to the fourth line at times, and even being left off the power play a handful of times as well. He’s played out of position at left wing rather than center and has underachieved to three goals and nine points in 25 games largely played with David Krejci and David Backes.

Whatever the history and the number of potential trade scenarios, Spooner said was “fed up” with all of it in his own words as he headed into Monday night’s game, and one thing remained true above all else: He wants to stick around as a member of the Bruins.

“I try to just put it in the back of my mind. When I was 17, I went through the same thing [in junior hockey]. I definitely want to play here,” said Spooner. “I want to help out and that’s kind of where I’m at now. If I play like I did [against the Panthers], I think I’ll be fine. I just want to go out, I want to help out, and that’s kind of where I’m at right now.”

The Black and Gold are looking for a top-6 forward capable of putting the puck in the net on the trade market in any possible deal involving Spooner, but it would seem that the 23-year can control his own destiny in Boston if he starts generating offense and putting the puck in the net. Spooner did just that on Monday night while setting up a third period goal, and lo and behold the Bruins offense posted four goals after struggling to get more than two for most of the season.

That could turn into the kind of trend that keeps Spooner in Boston if he knocks out the inconsistency in his game, and instead steps on the gas pedal and brings the speed and skill that got him to the NHL in the first place.