Commentary

No coasting by for Bruins rookies

Boston's youngsters must earn playing time no matter experience, draft pick

Updated: February 10, 2011, 9:45 AM ET
By James Murphy | ESPNBoston.com

BOSTON -- With the Boston Bruins' pregame announcement Wednesday that rookie forward Tyler Seguin would be scratched for the second time this season after watching his production, play and, subsequently, his playing time drop, coach Claude Julien sent a message to his team and especially the rookies: Anyone is fair game to sit up top.

The Bruins are a contender with a deep lineup, and if the rookies, or even the veterans, want to play, they need to earn the ice time.

Julien made that clear following the team's morning skate Wednesday when he announced Seguin would watch, from the press box, what turned out to be a wild, fight-filled 8-6 Bruins win over the Montreal Canadiens. While Julien made it clear Seguin's play needs to improve, he also explained the logjam of young talent on the roster right now with fellow rookies Jordan Caron and Zach Hamill recently called up. If those players want to play regularly, they will need to prove themselves just as Brad Marchand has; Marchand scored his 15th goal Wednesday night.

[+] EnlargeBruins
Elsa/Getty ImagesTim Thomas and the Bruins had an exciting win Wednesday, but rookie Tyler Seguin (not pictured) had to watch from the press box.

"I don't think we can overanalyze this … we have to sit somebody out -- and I know who he is, I know where he was drafted and I know all that stuff," Julien said. "I think right now, we've got Caron, who we feel is a good fit on that fourth line, and Hamill is here to have a look at. Here's a guy who's a third-year pro and he needs to have a look, too. Right now, that's the choice we've made.

"There's a lot on his plate right now and I think that's what people have to understand," Julien added of Seguin. "I know he's lost a bit of his edge and there have been times when he's lost the puck when he's a guy that should be able to hold onto it. And there are parts of his game that have slipped a little bit. But that doesn't change the outlook of what we think of him. It's just a matter of, I think it's a phase he's going through this year and it's a lot different at this level than what he's been used to, and it's never a bad thing to watch -- never a bad thing to get a rest at this time of year because we know that players do get tired after 50-plus games and the travel and everything that goes along [with it]."

Seguin, clearly not happy about sitting upstairs, seemed to understand why he was a healthy scratch and knows what he needs to do to earn more minutes.

"Yeah, I mean, whatever they want me to do I'm going to do it, and if that means playing or in the stands or going down, I gotta do what I gotta do," Seguin said prior to the game. "I gotta earn everything else I get. Whether it's five or 10 minutes a night, I gotta be taking advantage of it all. Even if I'm sitting on the bench for a while, I gotta be able to get my legs going. And that's something I'm not used to, but it's something I gotta change."

Seguin knows what is expected on him and what he needs to improve.

"I think getting a little more involved in the corners and battling and grinding a bit more," he said. "In juniors, I kind of was able to stay on the outside a bit more and let other guys do that [before] I'd get the puck in the middle and go. Here, the good players are guys who can do that but also get their nose dirty. That's the way hockey is, so that's something I've got to adapt to and learn."

Following the game, Seguin, who was thrilled for his team's big win and enjoyed the game as a hockey fan, was preaching the same mantra and seemed even more motivated to get back in the lineup.

"That was a crazy game," Seguin said with a smile. "Those are the types of games where it's hard to watch from the stands, but we pulled through and we worked really hard and we found the net eight times. We were backing each other up and it's good to see, and everyone is really happy."

But while he was happy to see his team win an old-school Habs-Bruins game, he wants to be in the next one.

"I think no matter what, I want to get in there," Seguin said. "But, yeah, that [Wednesday's game] sparked it even more, and I just got to do what they ask and work my hardest so I can get back in there."

As Seguin exited the dressing room in a suit after the game, Hamill, who played in his second game this season and third career NHL game, was still entertaining questions after assisting on a Michael Ryder second-period goal and finishing a plus-1 in 14 shifts and 10:35 playing between Ryder and Blake Wheeler. Hamill didn't have the game he wanted in his first game back with the big club Saturday in a 2-0 loss to San Jose, but he bounced back with a solid night Wednesday.

"You know, in that first game [Saturday], I felt fine in the defensive zone, and in the offensive zone I was a little nervous, holding the stick tight," Hamill said. "But tonight, I was holding the puck a little longer, being patient and making plays. The more I can get comfortable with the speed of the game and realize I can be patient still at times and do my thing, the better it is."

Hamill realizes that if he lets up just a bit, he could replace Seguin in the press box or find himself back in the AHL. That's why he is doing his best to make the most of this opportunity.

"I'm just taking it day-by-day -- come to the rink, practice or play games and work hard," said Hamill who admitted he used Sharks rookie sensation Logan Couture's performance this season and against the Bruins on Saturday as motivation to play better going forward. Couture was drafted one spot behind Hamill in 2007.

"I realize I'm getting a serious look here, and I'm young, but you get so many chances, so you make the best of them," Hamill added. "I gotta earn my time and produce. You see what he [Couture] is doing and you want to do the same, for sure."

So with the edict out from their coach, the Bruins' youth will do their best and know that no matter where they were drafted or what their track record was before they got here, they need to prove they belong in this lineup.

James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.

James Murphy

Bruins reporter, ESPNBoston.com

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