In Monday night’s 6-2 win against Carolina, for the first time in three games, Tyler Seguin started the night at right wing instead of center for the Bruins. The shift back to the right side — and onto the third line — did not surprise Seguin.
“It wasn’t working,” he said. “We were out there for the first goal [Saturday night vs. Montreal]. It just wasn’t good work in our own zone. We were kind of running around a bit. I can’t say I was shocked that it got changed.”
The Seguin-to-center experiment, which started last Thursday against New Jersey, is over. The Bruins were forced to give Seguin a look in the middle because of the absence of two regular centers: Patrice Bergeron (concussion) and Chris Kelly (broken left tibia).
But Kelly’s return Monday, combined with Seguin’s struggles at center, placed the third-year forward back on the right side. That the Bruins even tried moving Seguin to center in midseason underscored their desperation for help in the middle.
During the lockout, Seguin tore up the Swiss National A League with 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games. But it took him more than a month to readjust to NHL pace — the size of the rinks, the ferocity of the play — upon the lockout’s conclusion.
On Thursday, Seguin centered Brad Marchand and Jaromir Jagr. Seguin lost nine of 12 faceoffs. After the 1-0 win, coach Claude Julien acknowledged that Seguin’s move to center was a work in progress. Julien noted Seguin’s coverage in the defensive zone was not as thorough as the Bruins required.
“Lots,” Seguin answered when asked about the differences between center and wing. “The timing in your own zone. Going through the neutral zone, just knowing when to pick it up and where to go. There’s a lot more responsibility in your own end just with battling and finding your man.”
That didn’t change early against the Canadiens. Seguin, Marchand, and Jagr were caught scrambling on Alex Galchenyuk’s game-opening goal. The Bruins couldn’t afford to give Seguin the time he required to become comfortable at center. Seguin moved back to right wing and was replaced by Rich Peverley.
In retrospect, Seguin would require a full training camp to pick up the nuances of an NHL pivot.
“Right now, we’ve got some guys that can step in there,” Julien said. “There’s more to it than anything else. You do need to play some games in that position more than just in the middle of a season. You couldn’t have gone against a worse team that’s really good down low in the Montreal team. The change was made for the right reasons. It wasn’t pointing the finger at him more than we needed some experienced guys in the middle.”
Now the Bruins will wait to see if Seguin will need even more time to readjust once more. Another concern is how long Seguin will require to rebuild his confidence. He has been a regular top-six forward alongside Marchand and Bergeron for the last two seasons.
Seguin is now on the third line with Kelly and Daniel Paille, two speedy forwards who aren’t known as offensive playmakers.
The line did not have much offensive presence in its debut. It was the only line not to score in the win. Seguin had one shot in 14:56 of ice time.
Kelly back in
Kelly played in his first game since March 11. He sat out 14 games because of his broken left tibia. The Bruins had missed Kelly on the draw (60.6 percent winning percentage) and on the penalty kill (2:25 of shorthanded ice time per game).
Kelly skated 20 shifts for 13:23 of ice time and went 12 for 23 on faceoffs.
“I would have liked to have been a little better on faceoffs,” Kelly said. “Timing and things like that. It’s to be expected when you’ve been off for a month. Guys are in more than midseason form. There’s only 10 games left. I was just trying to go out there and just be part of it.”
Carolina went on only one power play. Kelly played 35 seconds on the penalty kill. Because of Kelly’s return, the Bruins could scratch Jay Pandolfo and put Jordan Caron back in the lineup. Caron, playing on the fourth line with Peverley and Shawn Thornton, responded with a goal in 11:24 of ice time.
“I liked his game tonight,” Julien said of Caron. “I thought he was a pretty good player. Strong along the walls. He was moving pretty good. For a guy who’s been in and out, to come in and give you that kind of game, I was pretty happy with that.”
Confident in him
In Saturday night’s first period, Matt Bartkowski tried to clear the puck up the left-side boards. Montreal’s P.K. Subban picked off the pass and triggered the goal-scoring sequence that ended with the puck going in off Bartkowski’s leg. During a TV timeout, Julien instructed Bartkowski to forget about the mistake. “Guys have to learn to do that,” Julien said of moving past errors. “When you’re younger and you haven’t been here that long, you tend to get nervous once those things happen. But I didn’t want him being nervous because he’s been a good player for us. He’s one of those guys who’s moving the puck well from the back end and carrying it up the ice when there’s some space. Besides that shift, he’s been really good for us.” . . . Pandolfo, Kaspars Daugavins, Aaron Johnson, and Wade Redden were the healthy scratches . . . Adam McQuaid (shoulder) participated in an optional morning skate.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at email@example.com.