Boston rookie forward Tyler Seguin has not had the best of months. Now, he gets a chance to change that.
A star everywhere he has ever been, Seguin has spent the past month watching Stanley Cup Playoff games from the press box. The only time he has seen the ice has been for practices and pre-game skates -- basically teases of what could be.
It has been an incredibly humbling existence for the player taken No. 2 in this past summer's Entry Draft. He was supposed to be a difference-maker for this club -- and, by all accounts, he will be one someday soon.
But he wasn't when the playoffs rolled around this spring, so he was scratched.
Now, though, the 19-year-old rookie, who had 11 goals and 11 assists in 74 games during the regular season, gets his chance.
Boston center Patrice Bergeron was injured in Friday's Game 4 against the Philadelphia Flyers, suffering a mild concussion in the clinching game at TD Garden. It is unlikely Bergeron, Boston's leading scorer, will be ready whenever the third round against Tampa Bay begins.
According to comments made Monday by the Bruins, it appears the Eastern Conference Finals will start either Thursday or Saturday at TD Garden.
That gives Seguin a few days to fit into the lineup, an apprenticeship through practice for which he is grateful. He told reporters Monday that he was doing his best to stay sharp, but nothing compares to being on the ice as part of the team and being involved in battle drills and the like.
"You can't assume that I was going to get in the lineup, but if a guy was going to get hurt, I wanted to do the best I could to stay sharp in practices and off the ice," Seguin said after Boston practiced Monday at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. "I think I was staying sharp. I feel like when you're working off the ice you might be pushing yourself even harder than on the ice. I've been trying to stay as sharp as I can."
Monday morning, the coaches liked what they saw from the talented rookie during the practice session.
"The way Tyler practiced today was really encouraging," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "You saw him use his speed, his skill. Again watching playoffs, I guess it really does make you hungry, and you hope that he's hungry enough that he steps in there and showcases what he can do, because he's a good player and certainly is improved from Day 1 to now."
Most likely, Seguin will slot into Boston's third line, playing the wing alongside veterans Rich Peverley and Michael Ryder. Chris Kelly, a normal fixture on that highly effective third line, will move into Bergeron's spot on the second line.
In his new role, Seguin will need to bring some offense, something he struggled with at the end of the season. The rookie did not have a point in his final 11 regular season games. Kelly had 4 goals and 3 assists in the first 11 playoffs games in the spot Seguin occupies.
As hard as it was to maintain the faith that he would be able to contribute, Seguin said he never lost hope. He watched each game from the press box, trying to glean information from the game unfolding below. He has asked questions of the team's vets and he has worked very hard off the ice, according to all accounts.
"I've been put in a situation where I'm always in pre-game warm-ups, so I get to see how guys prepare and see just how much of a higher level it is in the playoffs with the intensity," Seguin told reporters. "I know what I have to do. ... I'm ready to go. I've been looking from up top, cheering on the boys and all the intensity that comes with playoffs and I'm ready to be a part of it."
Julien, who was the one that opted to have Seguin take pre-game warm-ups and be in the dressing room with the players as they prepare for games, also believes Seguin to be ready.
"I always told him to stay ready," Julien said. "The reason we dress him for every warm-up was that I needed him to, I guess, get the experience of seeing how guys are getting ready for playoff games. He was in the dressing room before it started, and I think those are things, hopefully, that have allowed him to grow and get even better."