WASHINGTON - In yesterday’s 4-1 win over the Capitals, the Bruins’ Tyler Seguin scored his 20th goal of the season when he redirected a Brad Marchand feed past Tomas Vokoun at 6:38 of the third period.
“For him to be able to do that and have 20 goals at this stage is more than a lot of our players on this team have right now,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “It speaks a lot about his skill level.’’
But what’s been even more impressive about Seguin’s game has been his commitment to defense. On Saturday at TD Garden, Seguin took most of his shifts against Evgeni Malkin, the NHL’s leading scorer.
“Probably not,’’ Seguin answered when asked if he was ready for such responsibility as a rookie. “I think with all the experience I’ve gained, I can control my energy a bit better this year. I know when to give my all and when to be more positional - not waste my energy by circling and cheating offensively. I think last year, I did that a little too much. This year, I feel more in control.’’
There is little doubt that having Patrice Bergeron and Marchand as linemates has been critical in Seguin’s defensive development. But Seguin is proving to be more than just a tag-along on the two-way line.
A premier first line like Malkin, James Neal, and Chris Kunitz would have picked the threesome apart if Seguin was cheating offensively and not being defensively aware. But the first-liners didn’t score an even-strength goal in Pittsburgh’s 2-1 win Saturday.
“When we play against guys like that, we know they’re very offensively gifted and offensive-minded,’’ Seguin said. “If we play good in our D-zone and get pucks out as quickly as we can, then usually we’re going to generate a lot more opportunities in their zone. I think that’s the first thing we think about and the first thing we say before the game on the bench.’’
Seguin won the praise of his coaches and teammates with a strong backcheck on Malkin in the first period.
“He had a really good stick,’’ Julien said. “We often talk about having good sticks. Sometimes you want to hit guys with your stick up in the air. That doesn’t take the puck away. It still gives them an opportunity to make the play. He did a really good job. Everybody on the bench noted it and let him know. Those are things that encourage those players to do it more often.’’
As Julien often preaches, defense leads to offense. That was the case against the Penguins, when Seguin’s line was the most dangerous of Boston’s four combinations. Seguin and Marchand each landed three shots on Marc-Andre Fleury. Seguin had three more shots blocked and winged one wide of the net.
Yesterday, Seguin led the Bruins with five shots. Seguin had five more blocked and three other attempts go wide.
“Every game as the year progresses, he seems to be getting better in the areas he had to work on,’’ Julien said. “We talked about the highlight backchecks and committing to everything. At the same time, he’s producing offensively. He’s capable of being a complete player. I think he’s taking pride in that and working hard at that part of his game.’’
Nathan Horton skated on his own yesterday. It was Horton’s first time on the ice since suffering a concussion Jan. 22.
Given the nature of concussions, there is no timetable to Horton’s recovery. Assuming his solo skates go well, he will progress to non-contact practice. After that, Horton will take contact, then await clearance for game action.
Horton missed his fifth straight game yesterday. He did not join the team on the trip.
Left in stitches
Dennis Seidenberg played yesterday despite requiring stitches to close two cuts on his face Saturday. Seidenberg was injured in the third period when Joe Vitale belted him into the glass in front of the TD Garden penalty boxes.
Seidenberg suffered a gash on his forehead and a cut on the bridge of his nose. He wasn’t sure whether the cuts opened because of Vitale’s hit, his collision into the glass, or his own visor. Seidenberg missed more than 10 minutes of Saturday’s third period while undergoing repairs.
Yesterday, Seidenberg had three shots in 20:42 of ice time.
See you later
Yesterday marked the Bruins’ first look this season at Ovechkin. The Washington captain was suspended for the Capitals’ 5-3 win over the Bruins Jan. 24. Ovechkin was banished for three games for launching himself into Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek Jan. 22. Yesterday, Ovechkin had seven shots and seven hits in 22:49 of ice time. After one third-period shift, Ovechkin had words with linemate Alexander Semin on the bench . . . At 18:46 of the first, Adam McQuaid squared off against Matt Hendricks. McQuaid landed some early in-tight pops. Hendricks scored the takedown, never allowing McQuaid to open up and take advantage of his reach and punching power.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.