WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Offensive powerhouse Tyler Seguin has never been known as a defensive specialist, but his impressive two-way play of late is gaining attention. Is Claude Julien trying to change his game?
“We pride ourselves on being a good two-way team, but the one thing I don’t want you guys [the media] to get confused about is that we don’t expect him to become a defensive player,” Julien emphasized. “He’s a goal scorer; he’s an offensive player and we want him to thrive in those areas. But for him to become a real good two-way player and take as much pride at the other end of the rink is a bonus for us. He’s making a lot of things happen. ... It’s just a matter of time before he starts to score, and we still want him to because that’s why we drafted him for his offensive skill. So that’s gotta continue. And as I’ve often said to the young players that come in, ‘We’re not trying to change you but if there’s certain things we can add to your game without subtracting, that’s the benefit of becoming a better player.' "
Seguin led the team in goals and points last season, but has just three lamplighters and nine helpers through 16 games this season. However, he has started to look more and more like his linemate, reigning Selke Trophy winner Patrice Bergeron, with better hustle in the defensive zone.
“It's been pretty impressive with the way he's back-checked, the way he's played defensively," said Julien. "Again, [Tuesday] if he's not there in the crease area there's probably a goal with the defenseman not having the stick in his hand. He's made some nice plays.”
While many are still wondering when Seguin will go back to his bread and butter, the young player doesn't seem worried about it. Instead of letting his decreased offensive production frustrate him, Seguin decided to try to improve other areas of his game in hopes that would eventually spark the offense.
“I think I put enough heat on myself and I’m competitive guy,” Seguin said. “This year I’ve been really focusing on myself and the team and not even thinking about what goes on outside of here.
"I’m not even focused at all on the offensive zone until the puck starts rolling out of our own end. Usually there’s a tendency to go whenever we get the puck, but I think this year I’ve been doing a pretty solid job at waiting to see how things turn out. I’m really realizing through experience in this league, when a good d-zone play is made or your line does a good job defensively, something creates offensively. So I think if I keep that mentality, things will work out well.”
That mentality also has Seguin feeling like a more complete player and better teammate. When asked if it has been satisfying to create a new element to his game and improve on something Julien has tried to help him with for the last two seasons, Seguin lit up and smiled.
“Yeah it does,” Seguin said. “Obviously you get more credit when you’re scoring, but it feels good to help the team in whatever way I can. I think ‘Marchy’ [Brad Marchand] is probably picking up the slack for some of us, but it’s good to be able to step up in other ways. The team needs guys to step up at different times.”