BOSTON (CBS) – You can add another subtle but important step forward in the development of Bruins forward Tyler Seguin after the team’s 11th game of his sophomore season.
While his team was protecting a two-goal lead in an attempt to snap a three-game losing streak Tuesday night and Ottawa was pushing for a late-game miracle with its goaltender pulled for an extra skater, Bruins head coach Claude Julien didn’t hesitate to roll Seguin out with his regular linemates in the final two minutes of play.
Less than a year ago, Seguin wouldn’t have been let near that situation any more than you’d let the family dog into your picnic basket.
“Even when you get those opportunities, when I got that opportunity [Tuesday] night to go out there the last few minutes, you kind of get rewarded for having decent D zone coverage, and you’re getting put out there,” Seguin told CBSBoston.com after practice Wednesday at the TD Garden. “But it makes you strive even harder because I know I want to be that guy that [Julien] looks to not only if it’s a minute left and we’re losing but also with a minute left when we’re winning. I know that’s something that’s important to me and it’s something I need to keep working at.”
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Seguin’s natural offensive abilities have also been a cut above. They appeared in flashes last season and have been a more consistent presence with the Bruins this year, as he’s received more playing time and gained experience. He currently leads the team with 11 points and shares the team lead with Milan Lucic with four goals.
But just as important to the Bruins as Seguin’s offensive production is his improvement in his own zone. That he got to be on the ice in a “closing” situation is a sign Julien’s faith in Seguin is growing. It was also impressive that after he failed to clear a puck up the half-wall in the Boston zone with the Senators really turning up the heat, Seguin made up for his gaffe by diving toward the net to break up a cross-ice feed that might’ve allowed Ottawa to cut Boston’s lead to one because goaltender Tim Thomas would’ve been hard-pressed to get back across his crease.
Defensive plays like that aren’t celebrated with a group hug the way goals are. Typically, you’re lucky if you get a pat on the back from a coach or a stick tap from a teammate. Seguin, however, is learning to extract satisfaction from such moments.
“Yeah, I think, you definitely get satisfaction from scoring goals and making good plays. But also when you make that bid D-zone stop or having a great stick, that goes ever further,” he said. “That’s something I’m learning, that’s something I’m willing to do and that’s something I have to keep learning to work at.”
There are even parts of his offensive game Seguin still has to hone at the NHL level. He showed some reluctance to shoot on one break against the Sens Tuesday, but made up for it later with the sweet feed to Patrice Bergeron for a goal later on.
The Bruins’ plan to not throw too much at Seguin at once seems to be working after his limited minutes, and even his spectator status for much of the playoffs, last season. Now they’re giving him a little more room to work, but still limiting him just enough that his mistakes are limited. At this rate, Seguin might one day fulfill his goal of being a player Julien and the Bruins turn to regardless of the score and situation.
Matt Kalman covers the Bruins for CBSBoston.com. He operatesTheBruinsBlog.net and also contributes coverage to NHL.com and several other media outlets. Follow him on twitter @TheBruinsBlog.