Versatile Seguin will roll with what’s asked
When Tyler Seguin hit the ice with Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi for the first shift of yesterday’s Black vs. White scrimmage at TD Garden, the 18-year-old mistakenly believed he was at center.
After the initial confusion, Seguin moved to right wing, Recchi skated on the left side, and Bergeron remained at center. Later in the scrimmage, Seguin and Recchi switched wings under the instruction of assistant coach Geoff Ward.
The maneuvering paid off, as the three forwards, skating for Team White, clicked for the first goal. Recchi started the play by barreling down the right-side wall and forcing a turnover by Zdeno Chara, who had tried to reverse the puck to partner Steve Kampfer. Seguin hunted down the giveaway behind the net, spotted Bergeron streaking down the middle, and found his center for an in-front scoring chance. Bergeron responded by pounding the puck over Nolan Schaefer’s glove at 0:18 of the second period to give Team White a 1-0 lead.
“It felt great,’’ Seguin said of skating with Bergeron and Recchi. “It’s a lot easier when you’re getting great passes. Any time you play with great players, it’s a lot of fun.’’
Seguin, playing either the left or right wing, could break into the league under the watch of Bergeron and Recchi, the two alternate captains. Seguin wouldn’t have to assume the greater responsibilities of playing center. With coach Claude Julien often deploying Bergeron and Recchi in matchup situations, Seguin wouldn’t be expected to produce points on every shift.
“There’s no question it helps,’’ Recchi said of rookies breaking in with veterans. “Any time you get out there, especially playing with a centerman like Bergy — he’s so good at both ends of the rink — it could really help his development. We can talk to him and help him. Let him have fun. Go out there and enjoy it. That’s the biggest thing. We can talk to him about things he needs to work on, but at the same time keep it positive and keep him going in the right direction.’’
But with Marc Savard’s status undetermined because of postconcussion syndrome, the Bruins have tossed around multiple lineups. Seguin at center, like he was in rookie camp. Seguin at wing. Zach Hamill, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2007 draft, centering Nathan Horton, who was once projected to be paired with Savard. Daniel Paille, originally penciled in for fourth-line duty, was promoted alongside Bergeron and Jordan Caron in previous practices.
Add the absence of left wing Marco Sturm, who isn’t expected back until mid-November as he recovers from knee surgery, and you have what currently faces the Bruins: four lines experiencing the trickle-down effect of missing two top-six forwards.
“We’d been planning on Tyler going on the wing with a healthy Savard,’’ said Julien when asked about Seguin’s play alongside Bergeron and Recchi. “This is something that’s good to know. I can tell you that I liked what I saw from those three.’’
Like most coaches, Julien first looks for chemistry between two forwards, usually a center and wing. Then he adds in a third forward to complete the line. Given that Recchi has played with Bergeron for nearly the entire time the graybeard has been in Boston, it’s likely the two will remain together to start the regular season.
In last year’s playoffs, Sturm opened the second round as the pair’s left wing. But after Sturm injured his right knee in Game 1, Julien replaced him with Paille, the speedy defensive specialist. But with Paille’s offense limited, Blake Wheeler took his spot for Game 7.
Yesterday, Seguin made his bid to join the two.
“We saw Seguin at wing. We might see him at center as well,’’ Julien said. “I don’t think it’s anything that would be negative more than a positive thing for him to get used to those kinds of positions at this level and get a feel for it. He’ll get a little bit of everything.
“I think this is why we have all these exhibition games — to try out different things. But no doubt, when you look at Bergy and Recchi last year, putting somebody on that wing who will give them a little bit more of an offensive punch would definitely be something we’d want to look at.’’
If Seguin switches to left wing, it would create space at center, where Bergeron, David Krejci, and Gregory Campbell are locked into place. Hamill, one of the final three players cut in last year’s camp, could battle for an NHL job.
“He’s one of those guys that keeps improving every year,’’ Julien said. “Everybody’s different. Some guys make that quick jump. Some guys take a few years to make that jump. The one thing is that he’s gotten better. He’s going to deserve to be looked at and given a fair opportunity this year. We plan on doing that.’’
Also in the mix is 20-year-old Joe Colborne, who centered Jeremy Reich and Michael Ryder yesterday. A dark horse candidate is second-year pro Jamie Arniel, one of Seguin’s wingmen during rookie camp. Yesterday, Arniel centered Wheeler and Shawn Thornton and scored the winning goal in Team Black’s 3-1 victory.