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BOSTON -- Give Boston Bruins forward Tyler Seguin credit. He's not hiding from the fact that he needs to be better.
"I just know that I need to step up my game to another level," Seguin said Saturday when asked whether he was happy with his performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers. "I'm not going to sit here and hide that. I need to be better."
Seguin and the Bruins know he can do better than having one assist in eight games, which is his production so far in the playoffs. But since assisting on Patrice Bergeron's overtime winner in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Seguin definitely is playing better than he had in the previous six games.
|Since getting a pep talk from Shawn Thornton in Game 7 against Toronto, Tyler Seguin's game has improved.|
As coach Claude Julien pointed out Friday, even though Seguin's play didn't register on the score sheet in Game 1 against the Rangers -- a 3-2 overtime win for the Bruins -- he contributed to the victory.
"I think just before they scored that goal at the end of the second period, you see Tyler going hard to the net on that shot," Julien said. "When you look at the winning goal that [Bergeron] scored, he was the one that did all of the dirty work in front of the net, so I don't think right now it's a matter of him not playing hard.
"It's more of a matter that I think people expect and we expect that he should be a little bit more productive, be able to make a few more plays and be a bit more of a threat. If he finds his game, we know how much of a threat he can be, and we've got to keep working with him. That's what we're trying to do here."
That's what veteran teammate Shawn Thornton did prior to Bergeron's OT winner against Toronto, giving Seguin a little advice late in the game.
"It was a pretty clear message that basically it's time to step it up," Seguin said after the Bruins rallied from a three-goal, third-period deficit, a first in Stanley Cup playoffs history. "I think the effort was there from me and from our line. But the puck wasn't going in, and we weren't getting the results.
"Obviously, [Bergeron] had that goal late in the third after he hadn't seen the results, either. When it went into overtime, Thornton kind of said, 'It's time,' with an [angry] expression on his face. So I went out there and did it.
"There comes a point where coaches can't say anything to a locker room or can't say to go out there and do it. It comes from our team working for each other, and it takes a lot more meaning when one of us says it to another. It just hit me good, and luckily things worked out."
Following Saturday's practice, Thornton said he has noticed Seguin's improvement since the encounter and credited his teammate for doing the little things that eventually will lead to points.
"It's been better for sure, especially last game," Thornton said. "He's probably judged by his results more than a lot of guys because he's a top-six forward playing to get points. But I think he's battled, and the way he's brought his effort up in this series, I think it will pay off. On the power play last game, he had a lot of looks, he was getting pucks back and moving it around. When he's playing like that, he's usually successful."
Thornton isn't afraid to admit he doesn't have the raw talent of his 21-year-old teammate, who was drafted second overall by the Bruins in 2010. He said that if Seguin keeps playing the way he has the past two games and doing the little things, the points and goals will come.
"I've been doing it for 16 years, and they're still not coming, so it's pretty frustrating," Thornton joked. "As long as you keep getting chances, eventually they'll go in if you have his talents."
Speaking on Boston radio station 98.5 The Sports Hub on Friday, Hall of Famer and former Bruins captain Ray Bourque defended Seguin when asked whether Seguin's "soft" play was preventing him from being the sniper and go-to guy he has been much of the past two regular seasons. Bourque said he didn't see a soft player over the past two games and is impressed with the way Seguin has been willing to pay the price.
"I think he's worked really hard. I don't think I've seen him play as physical and engage as much as he did in that first series," Bourque said. "This guy is never going to be a physical presence and knock guys over; it's a matter of competing and going into the dirty areas. He had some good opportunities. He just didn't put up the numbers.
"When you look back at the series [against Toronto], you look at the stats. A lot of people will look and see he had one assist -- but it was a big one. The Bruins need him to be productive and put numbers up, and I think right now he's feeling the pressure. All Seguin needs is one game to break out, and then he'll feel it. They need it to happen soon, though."
Seguin has been his own biggest critic of late and definitely is feeling the pressure. But he knows that in order to fight that pressure and turn things around, he needs to simplify both his play and approach.
"I know eventually hard work pays off, and right now I'm trying to not think about too much," Seguin said. "I'm trying to play hard and smarter rather than just hard-working. My start of my last game wasn't great, but then as the game progressed, I felt better. It's more me and more mental.
"Right before last game, I wasn't thinking at all while getting ready. I was keeping it simple and not going out there and getting a hat trick or a great shift and whatnot. I think eventually it's going to pay off for me, and I've got to stick with it and even raise the level of my game even more."
Many times, athletes will take on superstitions -- especially hockey players, as exemplified by playoff beards. Seguin said he's no different, but with a bit of a twist.
"I guess if something's going right, I like to switch everything, but if something's going wrong, I have to keep sticking with it with all my pregame stuff," Seguin said with a smile. "It's reverse superstition. It's really messed up."
So what are some of his superstitions?
"It's honestly everything," Seguin said. "It comes with a necklace, a bracelet, comb, a tie, anything.
"I've gone with food for three years, but I can't give you all my secrets. My roommate will cook something real quick if I forget something. He's Italian."
Hopefully for Seguin and the Bruins, chicken parm is on the menu prior to Game 2.