NHL ALL-STAR NOTEBOOK
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TAMPA — Tyler Seguin, now five seasons into his career extension course with Dallas, has picked up his game considerably at the faceoff circle since leaving Boston.
Hit and miss at the dot in his Boston days, with an accent on miss, Seguin never won half his draws in his three seasons with the Bruins. Now he is the Stars’ most dependable draw man (54.9 percent win rate) and only 13 NHLers this season have taken more draws than his 885.
“Second and third efforts,” said Seguin, asked the reason for his improvement at the dot. “I think with faceoffs I was always one and done. I would take a swipe and that was kind of it.”
Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, noted Seguin, has made second and third efforts a constant mantra in his teachings. He wants players hungry for possession, never giving up on recovering pucks they might think aren’t retrievable.
“I might lose a draw,” said Seguin, now with a career scoring line of 212-258—470 in 558 games, “but it’ll be right there and I might be able to smack it back even though I lost the draw, and that counts as a win. It’s been a change, but I think it’s something that I’ve earned. It’s an opportunity that’s been given to me and I’ve enjoyed it.”
In his three seasons with the Bruins, including a half–season lost to lockout, Seguin took only 454 drops, winning 218 and losing 236. This year alone, he already has nearly doubled the total faceoffs, winning 486. Similar to his time in Boston, Patrice Bergeron remains the Bruins’ workhorse at the dot.
“Bergy’s kind of an old-school faceoff guy,” said Seguin, asked if any of his ex-teammate’s influence rubbed off on him. “You know, all strength . . . but I’m maybe more like a [David] Krejci or a Rich Peverley, taking their techniques, the way they use their skates to kind of cheat — same as [Claude] Giroux, [Paul] Stastny. A lot of guys find their way through more of a technical standpoint. I’m not the biggest guy in the world, that’s for sure, and a lot of faceoff men are stronger, but I’ve found ways to cheat in a way, and just do more thinking instead of just being one and done.”
Bruins winger Brad Marchand competed in Saturday night’s shooting accuracy competition. In prior years, plates were mounted as targets around the net. The format this year had players sniping at mounted LED lights around the cage lights that changed color when struck by the puck.
“Let’s see, five targets, and I’ll hit one with every five shots,” figured Marchand during a late-morning media availability. “So I’ll probably need about 25 pucks.”
During standard workouts, Marchand kidded, he shoots glove every time. In truth, he aims to shoot at different corners from a variety of angles.
“Everyone knows that I like to shoot high now,” he said. “So I am trying to shoot more low. So I think that is the biggest thing — hitting different corners from different angles.”
Marchand kept his sweater from last year’s All-Star festivities in LA and will do the same with the one here.
“I kept my sticks, helmet, and gloves from the year we won ,” he said. “The odd puck here and there, if I hit a milestone. Or from the World Cup or World Championship. I’m not overboard with it.”
Each player receives a goody bag and Marchand said he intends to have some of his fellow All-Stars sign a few of his items before returning to Boston.
“Plus, if I ever get in trouble down the road,” he mused, “I can always sell it, too.”
Vancouver rookie Brock Boeser, 20, won the accuracy shooting contest, knocking off the five targets in 11.136 seconds.
Marchand wasn’t the worst, but he finished No. 7 among the eight shooters at 44.692, only better than LA’s Anze Kopitar (50.844).
“Yeah, I thought the goal was to miss the targets,” said a beaming Marchand, who’s worn a perpetual smile since arriving here Friday. “Couldn’t you tell?’”
Marchand, who received a sound booing when he was introduced, admitted to panicking when a few of his early shots were off target.
“You get up there and everyone is booing you,” he said. “The pressure was on and I completely buckled. I enjoyed it. When you are in a real game, you don’t notice the crowd. But when you are in a situation like that . . . you kind of notice it a little bit more. A lot of eyes on you. I enjoyed it. Even though I didn’t do well, I enjoyed it.”
With a laugh, Marchand added, “That’s the one I kind of wanted to do, but after doing it . . . better stay away from that one if I ever do it again.”
Edmonton speedster Connor McDavid won the fastest skater competition for the second year in a row, scooting around the loop in 13.454 seconds, followed by Tampa’s Brayden Point and Buffalo’s Jack Eichel . . . Blues blue liner Alex Pietrangelo made easy work of the pass drills, completing the obstacle course in 46.610 seconds . . . Ex-Pens stopper Marc-Andre Fleury, now backstopping the Golden Knights to a sensational inaugural season, won the goalie competition, stringing together 14 consecutive saves in shootout-like style. Should it be that hard to score? . . . Alex Ovechkin, the lone shooter to break the 100-miles-per-hour mark, won the hardest shot title with a 101.3-m.p.h. blazer, still well below Zdeno Chara’s all time-mark of 108.8 mph set in 2012.
Like Seguin, star Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, 27, projects to become an unrestricted free agent July 1, 2019. With the trade deadline less than a month away (Feb. 26), speculation has been rampant in Ottawa that the Senators will deal Karlsson, which would be a highly unpopular move with the red-and-black fan base.
“As of right now, it’s not something I am focusing on or worrying about,” said Karlsson, his game not as dominant this season following offseason foot surgery. “As of right now, I’m just worrying about getting us out of the slump that we’re in and trying to find solutions to the problems we have.”
NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, in his traditional All-Star Weekend news conference, announced late Saturday afternoon that next year’s All-Star festivities will be held in San Jose, Calif. . . . The Bruins and Flames are likely to play a pair of exhibition games in China (city unknown) this September. The league was expected to announce details regarding those games, but Bettman stressed that the league and the Players’ Association have yet to finalize terms.
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