Tyler Seguin Must Earn More Ice Time, Glimmers of Hope for Power Play and Other Bruins Thoughts


March 15, 2011

Tyler Seguin Must Earn More Ice Time, Glimmers of Hope for Power Play and Other Bruins Thoughts The Bruins' season-high seven-game win streak is fast becoming a distant memory after the club followed it up with a season-long four-game losing streak.

They will try to snap out of that skid this week as the Bruins head back on the road for games in Columbus, Nashville and Toronto. Boston has done its best work away from TD Garden this year, so maybe another trip is just what they need. They will have to figure out a way to be more consistent at home thoug as the Bruins play eight of their final 11 games on Garden ice after they return from this trip.

While they ponder how to replicate their road success in front of the home folks, here's a look at a half dozen items from the past week that may have otherwise slipped through the cracks in this week's edition of the Bruins Shootout.

1. There's been plenty of frustration from Bruins fans over the lack of playing time of late for top pick Tyler Seguin. But the rookie hasn't exactly been making Bruins coach Claude Julien regret his decision to sit him in three of the last five games. Seguin has no points in the last six games he has played and no shots in the last three despite averaging more than 10 minutes of ice time in that span. His defensive play hasn't improved enough to warrant additional ice time, and the Bruins can't afford to have him learning on the job with the stakes so high at this time of year. Complicating matters is the fact that Seguin's game is not suited to a fourth-line role. As modest as his own production has been, Daniel Paille (2-5-7 in 32 games) can at least contribute on the penalty kill and play an energy role alongside Greg Campbell and Shawn Thornton.

Julien has recognized Seguin's limitations in that regard, and has begun practicing him as the spare forward on the third line with Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder and Mark Recchi rather than the fourth line. Seguin will still get some chances to play down the stretch, but would be better served on a line like that, perhaps with Kelly dropping down to the fourth line with Campbell and Thornton. Still, the cries for more ice time and power-play chances for Seguin are likely to go unheeded this season unless he can prove worthy of an expanded role with how he performs in practice and the game opportunities he does get.

2. The Bruins' power-play struggles of late have been well documented. They went 23 power-play chances over nine games between goals before Zdeno Chara finally scored on a two-man advantage on Friday. Since Tomas Kaberle was added, with the hope of improving the power play a major reason behind that acquisition, the Bruins are just 2-for-28 with the man-advantage. There are some signs of hope though. Chara did end the drought with his one-time blast on that 5-on-3 advantage, while the Bruins scored a pair of goals Thursday against Buffalo just after power plays expired. Nathan Horton scored 18 seconds after Tyler Myers' tripping call was up but before Buffalo could clear the zone, while Campbell scored 27 seconds after Chris Butler's roughing penalty ended. In those cases, the power play at least produced some momentum that led to goals. There's still plenty of work to do, but that's a glimmer of hope for the Bruins' beleaguered special teams.

3. The Bruins' blue line also has some reason for optimism, with Steven Kampfer (concussion) and Andrew Ference (lower body) both close to returning. Kampfer hopes to play Tuesday in Columbus, while Ference could rejoin the lineup later in this week's road trip. Ference doesn't pile up a lot of stats, but his presence has been dearly missed. He's a stabilizing force on the back end and helps eat up minutes to lessen the load on Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. He also does a lot of the dirty work in terms of blocking shots and sticking up for teammates, and is ninth in the league in plus/minus at plus-24. The real numbers that show his value though are in the club's win/loss record. Last year, the Bruins went 28-16-7 with him in the lineup and 11-14-6 without him, with the club's midseason swoon coinciding with his absence with a groin injury. The first game after he was hurt started a 1-9-4 skid, and Boston immediately won four straight before the Olympic break upon his return. This year, the Bruins have fallen into a season-worst four-game losing streak after Ference went down at the tail end of their 6-0-0 road trip.

4. One thing that will bear monitoring when Kampfer and Ference come back is how long it will take them to get back up to speed. Neither player has had that long of a layoff, but the Bruins can't afford to ease them back into the rotation too slowly. "We don't have a choice with a situation like that," Julien said before leaving for Columbus on Monday. "They've been skating. Ference has been on the ice for at least 4-5 days now and Kampfer a day less. There may be a little bit of rust, but of that is the case we'll just slowly insert them into the lineup with less ice time and let them work their way up. But we don't have a choice at this point. We need to get those guys going."

Ference missed seven games through Monday, while Kampfer had been out for four. Ference may need a little extra time to get back in game condition with a lower-body injury that more directly affects his speed and skating, but Kampfer was confident there wouldn't be too much rust to knock off from his 10-day absence. "It comes back relatively quickly," Kampfer said. "I felt better [Monday] skating, passing, positioning. It's one of those things that gets better as the day goes on. I felt back up to game speed, passing, moving, thinking, so I'm ready to get back into action."
5. Brad Marchand has been one of the more pleasant surprises for the Bruins this season, but the clock may have struck midnight on this Cinderella story. After putting up 13-7-20 totals and a plus-20 in his first 21 games playing alongside Patrice Bergeron and Recchi, Marchand has no goals and just one assist to go with a minus-2 rating in the last eight games. He's also taken some bad penalties, including an interference call Friday that led to the Islanders' first goal with two seconds left in the second period and got Marchand benched for the third. Marchand needs to get back to drawing penalties with his agitating style and the Bruins need him to find his scoring touch again to help make the Bruins less of a one-line team. Julien recently broke up that line, switching Recchi with Rich Peverley to add some more speed to the unit, but perhaps reuniting that trio could recapture some of the old magic as Peverley has yet to click with Bergeron and Marchand. Beregron also needs to find his game again, as he doesn't have a point and is a minus-3 in his last six games.

6. The one line carrying the Bruins has been the Milan LucicDavid KrejciNathan Horton combination. Over the last 11 games, that trio has combined for 14-25-39 totals and a plus-27. Boston has just 30 total goals over that span. The start of the hot streak coincided with the beginning of the Bruins' seven-game win streak, but Krejci and Co. have continued to put up numbers even through the current four-game slide. Krejci has 2-13-15 totals, Lucic 6-8-14 and Horton 6-4-10. Lucic and Horton are also playing more physical, and it's no coincidence that their offensive touch has returned along with playing a more robust style as that physical style creates time and space for themselves and their linemates.

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