WILMINGTON, Mass. -- Boston Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin has waited patiently as a healthy scratch through his team's first 11 games of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a chance to experience what postseason hockey is all about. Seguin has tried to learn from watching the game from the press box and has not let up in practice, working as if he was going to play the next game. That next game is finally here.
With center Patrice Bergeron out indefinitely with a mild concussion, the player taken second overall in the 2010 NHL entry draft will be in the lineup when the Bruins open the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"I'm excited for sure," Seguin said. "This is what it's all about so I'm excited to get in there."
Seguin told the media he didn't know whether he'd be filling in for Bergeron until he read general manager Peter Chiarelli's comments Saturday, when Chiarelli said it was a "safe assumption" that Seguin would be the guy and went on to praise the 19-year-old and his practice habits.
"I wasn't expecting anything," Seguin said. "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. 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."
The rookie admitted that stepping in for an injured teammate isn't the way he would have preferred to experience the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time, but he has done his best to prepare for anything and knew an injury might be how he would get his shot.
"It's not the position I've really wanted to be in," Seguin said. "You see your teammate go down and he's hurt and you don't know what's going to happen to him, especially a top player. Then you tell yourself it looks you might be in. It's a hard state. I've been saying all along, if that happens, because injuries are a part of hockey, I'm going to be physically and mentally ready. That's what I feel like
Seguin, who had 22 points in 74 games during his rookie campaign, has had a season of growing pains as he adjusted to the physical and mental demands of the NHL. The rookie admitted Monday that he didn't expect it to be so hard to maintain a regular spot in the lineup, but he has learned how hard it is and what a privilege it is to be on a Stanley Cup contender like the Bruins.
"I've seen how hard it is just to stay in this league, especially on a team like ours," Seguin said. "I still wouldn't trade that for the world."
Coach Claude Julien said Seguin has shown in recent practices, specifically Monday's, that he is hungry to prove he has learned what it takes to play at the NHL level and more importantly in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The coach stressed to his eager rookie that it's all about results in the playoffs, and the Bruins will need Seguin to step up and deliver.
"The way Tyler practiced today was really encouraging," Julien said. "You saw him use his speed, his skill. Watching the 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 one to now.
"Right now is crunch time; it's about winning. And as I mentioned to him, it's not so much about being patient and then seeing things; it's more about results right now. It's going to be important that he tries to give us some results. And results for him would be certainly competing really hard in all areas and utilizing his skill set to create some scoring chances and then some goals."
Julien and Seguin talked before the playoffs, and the coach told the media Monday that he stressed to Seguin the importance of staying sharp and ready. Julien allowed Seguin to skate with his teammates during warm-ups for every game in the playoffs, and the rookie has been in the dressing room before and after games as well as during intermissions, trying to soak in as much as possible.
"I had the conversation -- I don't necessarily think I told him you're the odd man out more than you've got to be ready," Julien said. "We don't know what's going to happen here from day to day. But he knew we were going to start with that lineup that we started with, and experience was one of the things that we were looking for and where guys fit into certain spots. We felt we had good line combinations, but I always told him to stay ready.
"The reason we dress him for every warm-up was that I needed him to get the experience of seeing how guys are getting ready for playoff games. I think those are things that hopefully will have allowed him to grow and get even better," Julien said.
Seguin was grateful for the opportunities to feel a part of the action and the team, and feels he has learned enough to be ready for this chance.
"I've been put in a situation where I'm always in pregame 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 said. "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."
James Murphy covers the Bruins for ESPNBoston.com.