OTTAWA - Even before the Bruins’ Tyler Seguin became an NHLer, he was Phil Kessel’s foil. Yesterday, they were linemates.
Seguin centered Kessel and Toronto linemate Joffrey Lupul in the All-Star Game at Scotiabank Place. It was Claude Julien’s way of teaming the two instead of putting them at odds.
“I thought that this was a great opportunity to put those guys together,’’ said the Boston coach. “Instead of making it a rivalry or who ended up with the best of the trade, they’re both great players.
“The fact is that Tyler could play center. So why not put him with Phil? This is not about wars or people competing. It’s about having fun with it.’’
On Sept. 18, 2009, the Bruins and Maple Leafs executed the trade that would alter both franchises. Kessel, an unsigned restricted free agent, went to Toronto and promptly signed a five-year, $27 million contract.
In return, the Bruins hauled in the picks that would become Seguin, Jared Knight, and Dougie Hamilton. Kessel is a first-line right wing. Seguin is riding on Boston’s No. 2 line. Knight could be a second- or third-line NHL wing. The Bruins project Hamilton to become a No. 1 defenseman.
All that was put to the side yesterday. Seguin had one assist. Kessel racked up a goal and two helpers.
Four in a row
Technically, Tim Thomas should have been Julien’s starter. He had earned the honor by fan vote. But Thomas wanted the chance to gun for his fourth straight win. Nobody was going to deny him that chance.
After Jimmy Howard and Carey Price played Rock, Paper, Scissors to determine which period they would play, Thomas entered the game after 40 minutes. The game was tied at 6-6, but Thomas’s Team Chara boys brought the offense in the third period, pumping six pucks past Brian Elliott.
At the other end, Thomas turned back 18 shots.
“I’m very happy with the end result,’’ Thomas said. “I went into it shooting for four. But I don’t think I realized how much I wanted it until we got into it. My team came up big and scored a couple goals early for me.
“I was like, ‘Let’s do this. I’m ready to go.’ ’’
It has yet to be determined whether the NHL will release its players for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. If NHLers receive the green light, Team USA will have plenty of resources to choose from for the sport’s most important position.
Given his performance, Thomas projects to remain in high puckstopping form two years from now. He was the No. 2 goalie for the Stars & Stripes in 2010 in Vancouver when the Americans came home with silver. Thomas would like nothing better than to be the go-to guy - and strike gold, naturally - in 2014. By then, Thomas will be 39.
Thomas has cited Jim Craig’s 1980 Olympic performance as his most important hockey memory.
Two other candidates appeared in yesterday’s All-Star Game. Howard (Ogdensburg, N.Y.) and Jonathan Quick (Milford, Conn.) will make a push for Team USA duties if the NHLers are released. Quick was the No. 3 goalie in Vancouver.
Quick (21-12-9, 1.93 goals-against average, .934 save percentage), the former UMass star, has a league-leading six shutouts.
Howard (30-11-1, 2.03 GAA, .924 save percentage) is the only goalie with 30-plus wins.
“I was trying to be in three spots at once instead of just concentrating on the puck,’’ Howard said of his approach earlier in his career. “Now I’m going over in my head what’s going to happen.’’
Ryan Miller, arguably the best player in the 2010 Olympics, is having a down year. But Miller could rebound by 2014.
Cory Schneider (Marblehead) also could make a push.
Back to work
The Bruins will reconvene this afternoon at TD Garden for their first post-break practice. Thomas, Seguin, and Zdeno Chara are excused from the session because of their All-Star Game participation. The Bruins play the Senators at the Garden tomorrow . . . It is unknown whether Nathan Horton (concussion) will be available tomorrow. Horton was injured last Sunday in Philadelphia when he was hit from the side by Tom Sestito . . . There were seven captains in yesterday’s game: Chara, Daniel Alfredsson, Shea Weber, Henrik Sedin, Jarome Iginla, Jason Pominville, and Dion Phaneuf . . . Unlike previous All-Star Games, players wearing the same numbers weren’t required to switch digits. There were six sets of identical numbers: Marian Gaborik and Corey Perry (No. 10), Jamie Benn and Jordan Eberle (No. 14), Seguin and Lupul (No. 19), Marian Hossa and Kessel (No. 81), Scott Hartnell and Jason Spezza (No. 19), and Steven Stamkos and John Tavares (No. 91) . . . Gaborik was named All-Star MVP after scoring a hat trick on six shots. Alfredsson led all players with seven shots, scoring on two of them . . . Phaneuf was called for the game’s only penalty. He tripped Stamkos, who was awarded a penalty shot. Howard turned back Stamkos’s shot . . . Hartnell landed the game’s only hit . . . Within the All-Star Game, here were the members of the All-Flow Team: Howard, Erik Karlsson, Kris Letang, Stamkos, Hartnell, and Benn. Their barbers did not attend the game.