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BOSTON (CBS) – When the 2011 NHL playoffs began, then-rookie Tyler Seguin had a view from above the ice.
Seguin was a healthy scratch for the Bruins in their first two rounds, only finding his way into the lineup in the Eastern Conference Finals after Patrice Bergeron suffered a concussion in the Eastern semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 19-year-old provided an instant spark, netting three goals and three assists in Boston’s seven game series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they marched on the to the Stanley Cup Finals, against the Vancouver Canucks.
This year is much different for the 20-year-old though, as he knows he will be called upon to have a major impact this time around.
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“What was going through my head last year was just if I was going to be playing and how I could contribute if I was going to be in that night. So, it’s a lot different this year and I definitely like it better with the more I can contribute on the ice,” Seguin said earlier this week as the Bruins prepared for their first-round opponent, the Washington Capitals.
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The experience he got over the final 14 games of the playoffs, playing in two Game 7′s and three elimination games, is something not many youngsters get fresh into the pros.
“The experience he gained from last year — even if he didn’t play every game — he played enough and played in the finals where it really counted and to me that is experience not too many 18 years old get a chance to have,” head coach Claude Julien said Tuesday.
In his second NHL season, Seguin led the Bruins in scoring with 29 goals and 38 assists. His pairing with Bergeron and Brad Marchand form a fast and sometimes-filthy line for the opposition to contend with.
But with the bigger spotlight comes added pressure for the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft. Most of it comes from himself.
“Absolutely. I think I, and a lot of athletes put enough pressure on themselves as it is, but obviously it’s playoff time – it’s when the real season begins,” said Seguin. “This is where you get really excited and it’s a lot of fun. These days preparing are pretty long, but I can wait until we start.”
And although he enjoyed a successful regular season, he still has to prove that he can get it done in the playoffs once again.
“He still has to go out there and show and prove, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe that he has, we have the confidence that he has, but that’s up to him to go out and show it,” said Julien. “He’s grown and matured a lot this year. I’ve said it before, he still has a lot of growth in him to become an even more potent and better player and that speaks volumes for him because he did lead our team in scoring this year.”
“We see him as a real high-end skilled player down the road (but) there’s still a lot to come out of Tyler,” added Julien. ”The one thing that we’ve really worked with him on that would help his development is how much got involved in traffic and little bit of grittiness when he came to wanting the puck… Some games it’s better than others but he’s certainly coming around and he believes it so that’s the one thing that I guess gives us confidence him coming in the playoffs and being ready.”
With the brighter spotlight also comes harder play from the opposition. He benefited last postseason from playing on the B’s third line, and defenses did not necessarily key-in on him. That won’t be the case this year, and Seguin is expecting much tighter coverage, as he started to see during the regular season.
“Sometimes I wonder why the spot isn’t there anymore when it was when we faced them the last time,” said Seguin. “That’s what comes with growing as a player – that’s why when I personally look at when people say that ‘sophomore slump’ it’s because the other teams have had a full year to look at you and you get in a little rut. But the sophomores usually get out of it because they have to change their game and adapt, so that’s what I try to do.”
Harder play from the defense will likely mean a target on his back as well. But as all the Bruins know, the rest of the team is there for any player in need.
“I think he knows everybody on this team has his back,” said Julien. “All he has to do is go out there and compete and be ready to face that kind of challenge. Like I said, if we want him to become a better player he has to be ready to face those kind of challenges and face them with a positive result. He’s got to work his way through it and we expect to be able to do that.”
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98.5 The Sports Hub is the only local station to listen to every game of the Stanley Cup Finals. Coverage begins an hour before each game with the Bruins Pregame show hosted by Dave Goucher & Bob Beers.