The Bruins’ rookie is getting ready to make his NHL playoff debut, as Seguin will be called upon to play in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay with Patrice Bergeron sidelined with a concussion.
It’s been more than a month since Seguin last played in a game, but he’s been on hand throughout the Bruins’ march to the conference finals — their first appearance in this round since the 19-year-old Seguin was still in diapers.
While Seguin was less than four months old when the 1992 conference finals between the Bruins and Penguins opened, Mark Recchi had just wrapped up his fourth season in the NHL. Recchi’s seen it all in his 22 seasons in the league, and he’s more than willing to help get his young teammate ready for his big moment.
“I’ll probably talk to him a little bit before he plays on Saturday,” Recchi said. “Right now, it’s just letting him enjoy practice, getting a good feel for it and having some fun with it. We don’t want to start talking to him too early. He’s worked hard all year to get better and better, and he has. It’s a great opportunity for him.”
Seguin will welcome all the advice he can get from his veteran teammates, especially a guy like Recchi with two Stanley Cup rings on his Hall of Fame resume.
“They’ve been there the whole way,” Seguin said. “The thing that’s great about this team is I can really go to anyone, and they’ve had some experience. Especially when it comes to playoffs, I’m going to be asking Rex [Recchi]. If you look at his stat sheet, it’s pretty phenomenal. So I ask him about little playoff stuff all the time.”
Still, Recchi knows there is only so much you can tell someone about what the playoffs will be like. Nothing can fully prepare anyone for the intensity of the competition, but Recchi is confident Seguin is up to the task.
“You can talk to him all you want, but when you get out there for your first shift, you’re going to find out,” said Recchi, who described what he’d tell Seguin. “Do a smart thing, get in there, maybe get bumped, go give a bump, get yourself physically involved in the game and emotionally involved, and you’ll be fine. Once those first couple of shifts are over, he’ll realize what it is and be ready to roll.”
Recchi has already seen Seguin come a long way in his first professional season.
“In juniors I think he was just so darn good that he could kind of get away with just skill,” Recchi said. “He learned how to compete every night and how to be a pro. It was great to see he was willing to learn. He was willing to talk to guys, get better and want to get better. When you have that, you’re going to get better. If you think you’re too good, you’re not going to get better. But he improved tremendously over the course of the season in terms of how hard he competed. It was great to see. Now this is another level, and he’s ready for it.”
Seguin believes he has improved in those areas, while recognizing it’s still a work in progress.
“It’s been a huge learning curve,” Seguin said. “My defensive zone [play] has gotten a lot better, I think, and I also believe my compete level and my battle skills have gotten better, and I’m still improving.”
Now Seguin is eager to see how much he has improved after being relegated to spectator status for the first two rounds of the playoffs.
“I’ve obviously been happy because we’ve been winning, but it’s tough not being in the lineup,” Seguin said. “You get a little crazy just watching all the time, and you can’t do anything but sit there and yell at the ice. It’s definitely nice to know I’m going to get into the lineup.”
Seguin’s teammates are eager to see what the youngster can do as well.
“You can tell just by watching him how excited he is,” forward Brad Marchand said. “He’s having great practices every day. He’s out there working his butt off, and he looks really good out there. So I’m excited to see him out there. I think he’s going to be flying, and I think he’s going to impress.”
Seguin won’t have an unlimited leash, however. He’ll have to prove he’s worthy of the ice time he receives, but Bruins coach Claude Julien is confident the rookie is ready to do that.
“Seguin goes into a spot here right now, and we all know he’s capable of making plays, and it’s going to be his first playoff game,” Julien said. “We’ve got to give him that opportunity to get his feet wet. And understand, when we say getting his feet wet, you’ve got to give him that opportunity. He’s also got to show that he deserves to be there and deserves to stay there. And he’s well aware of that.
“Anyone who comes into the playoffs, it doesn’t matter who we put in there, you’ve got to be able to do the job,” Julien added. “It’s not about teaching. It’s not about anything else but the moment and the importance of what that means. So that’s where we’re at in regards to that. We feel good about his game, what he’s capable of bringing, and that’s why he’s still here. He’s been with us all year, and we chose to keep him here because he’s got some assets that help our hockey club.”