WILMINGTON, Mass. — The Bruins unleashed their newest physical weapon Saturday night in Toronto, and it almost got overshadowed by the team’s dreadful overall performance in losing the Maple Leafs.
That’s right, Tyler Seguin threw his weight around to the tune of two recorded hits, including one that forced a Toronto turnover in the attack zone and allowed Patrice Bergeron’s line to pressure the Leafs while the 5-2 loss was still a tight game.
Now obviously I’m exaggerating. I don’t expect Seguin to suddenly morph into the second coming of Milan Lucic, and the real test will be if the No. 2 overall pick can sustain the energy to the next game and duplicate his performance (which included five shots on net) down the stretch of the season.
But it was refreshing to see the 19-year-old so engaged in the battle, especially considering he’s almost all the way through his first rigorous NHL season. This is usually the time when rookies start to wear down, yet Seguin looks like he might be just hitting his stride. At least Saturday he was hitting something. The reward of that hit could encourage him to do it again.
“I don’t know. I’ve never really been a hitter,” said Seguin today after practice when asked if he can get the same reward from a big hit as he does from a big goal. “But yeah, especially at the end your shift – you know you’re going to go off, you see the puck you might as well finish the body because you never know if it’s going to open up space for others. That’s what I did and then I went off.”
There are too many adjustments an NHL rookie has to make in life to list. But Seguin’s had to make one that doesn’t usually affect players of his pedigree. As a healthy scratch six times this season, he’s had to put in a ton of extra off-ice work in addition to the 12 minutes of ice time he’s averaged when in the line-up.
“That was something I had to get used to; something I had to do,” he said.
He figures that although the summer will be the best time for him to bulk up his listed 186-pound frame, he has gotten stronger and quicker over the course of the season. So the off-ice work has paid off. And now we’re starting to see a glimpse of his on-ice lessons getting put to use, according to head coach Claude Julien.
“He’s slowly getting better. I think what we’ve been working with him on is starting to pay off,” said Julien. “He’s competing a little better. And when you compete a little better in certain areas, your skill level kind of takes over. Again, it’s going back to the skill level that we know he has … and how does he expose that. And I think he exposes that by competing hard in certain areas and making sure he has the puck on his stick. He’s got to play with the puck and I think he’s done a lot better in regards to that.”
Seguin also credits his recent linemates, Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, for providing guidance and support over the last few games. He says he has improved defensively from the start of the season, which is proven by the fact that Julien played Seguin over Michael Ryder last week in Columbus. And now he’s trying to add those corner battles he didn’t have to worry about in junior hockey to his repertoire as an NHLer.
It doesn’t hurt to have some extra confidence as well, but Seguin doesn’t want to over-analyze things now that they’re going in the right direction.
“I’m not looking into it right now. I feel great out there playing, and Pevs and Kells and me are finding some chemistry, and it’s clicking right now,” he said.