Five Thoughts: Tyler Seguin is making Claude Julien look bad

You had to figure that the Bruins were going to come out in Game 2 and go for it, and they did that and then some. They attacked, they pressured, hell they even scored a couple power play goals. That said, it still wasn’t easy for Boston as they knotted up the series at 1-1. We’ve got a few thoughts on last night.

1. Tyler Seguin is doing a hell of a job to make Claude Julien look awfully bad. After Seguin’s two goal, two assist effort last night he’s now got six points (3 goals, 3 assists) in two games. He still didn’t get the minutes you’d think a guy producing like that would get (13:31 played in Game 2 to go with the just over nine minutes in Game 1). Six points in about 23 minutes played is unbelievable production. Seguin got points on the power play helping set up Michael Ryder’s first goal and his two goals were beauties of both skills deking and shooting.

Julien opting to keep Seguin caged up in the press box both at the end of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs was met with a lot of criticism and while he’s going to look like a genius now for unleashing this “secret weapon” against Tampa Bay, it makes those of us who are a bit more cynical about things wonder why in the world he wasn’t on the ice in the first freaking place. Either way, it’s great to see Seguin unleash his potential through the series’ first two games. Let’s see how he does the rest of the way.

2. There’s plenty for the Bruins to be proud of as they got the offensive breakout they were waiting for through most of the playoffs. Michael Ryder scored twice, Seguin had his big game, even Tomas Kaberle earned a pair of assists. Defensively, however, the red flags that were around in Game 1 are still there for Game 2.

While they got the great attacking and physical effort, the Bruins seemed to sit on the lead after two periods. When you’re up 6-3 after two periods, complacency can set in and Tampa Bay nearly took full advantage of that in the third. Tampa Bay isn’t the sort of team you can fall asleep against as the effort level will always be sky high under Guy Boucher. Steve Stamkos and Dominic Moore (scoring one off of Tim Thomas’ bare face after losing a helmet) helped make things too interesting. Letdowns generally lead to losing and the Bruins should be more than happy to have held on.

3. One red flag the Bruins didn’t think they’d have to deal with in this series would have to be the play of Tim Thomas. For the second straight game Thomas allowed five goals and while Tampa is doing their part to attack the net strong and generate chances consistently. After 33 shots faced in Game 1 and 41 in Game 2, the Bruins defense and Thomas are all struggling. The insane part is that Thomas is still making spectaular saves and keeping the Lightning frustrated for stretches of the game. The Bruins would feel more comfortable if he can get back to looking like a potential Vezina winner rather than having to go out and score tons of goals each game.

4. It’ll be worth watching to see how Dwayne Roloson responds to getting lit up for six goals on 27 shots. We’ve seen in the past that sometimes Roloson will have the sort of game where he looks less-than stellar only to bounce back even stronger in his next outing. They’ll need Roloson to stay strong especially if the Bruins have figured out how to score goals consistently. One game doesn’t indicate problems, but Roloson didn’t look good in Game 2.

5. Lost in the huge games had by Seguin and Ryder for Boston were the incredible efforts from Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos. Lecavalier had a goal and three assists while Stamkos poured in a goal and two assists. Martin St. Louis getting a goal and an assist as well all going for naught in the loss. Getting such dominating games from their top players is just what the Lightning would want to see, coming away with out a win when you put a five spot on Tim Thomas makes the loss all the more bitter for the Lightning. Of course, getting that kind of output from their stars is something that they’ve gotten through parts of the playoffs, just not all in one game like that.

Sebastian Aho has found his scoring touch again

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There was a time just over a week ago that people were hitting the panic button on second-year Carolina Hurricanes forward Sebastian Aho.

Many of these people fell into two groups:

Group No. 1 consisted of Hurricanes fans desperate for their young budding star to get going and rekindle the scoring touch he possessed last season

Group No. 2 was made up of Aho’s fantasy league owners, thousands across North America, who were growing impatient with the 20-year-old’s unproductive start to the season.

And then there was Aho himself, but he chose to stay positive despite the drought.

“I think I’ve played better and better every day, and I think the goals are coming,” Aho told The News & Observer in Raleigh at the beginning of November. “I just need to stay positive. Just relax my game. Obviously, work hard, but still when I get the chances just relax.”

The above concerns of all parties involved were genuine, of course, Hurricanes management, too, were likely chomping at the bit as they awaited the Finn’s scoring touch around the net.

Perhaps Aho just doesn’t like running with the big pack out of the gate. Slow and steady, as the old saying goes. Despite the lack of pucks behind goalies, Aho has been a strong possession player this season and his expected goal numbers are equally as good.

Aho also has his brief history in pro hockey on his side.

Indeed, Aho’s rookie season didn’t start much different. Last season, it took the Finn 13 games to score his first NHL goal, but he managed to finish the season with 24, an impressive number from a new commodity.

He was only off that pace by two games this season.

It took him 15 games (over four-and-a-half hours of ice time) to register his name and number in the goal section of the scoresheet.

It was just a matter of time, and now, he just can’t help himself.

Aho has been on a tear since that Nov. 13 coming out party where he scored his first marker and added two helpers in a dominant 5-1 win against the Dallas Stars.

After adding another goal and another apple on Sunday, Aho now has 13 of his 17 points this season in his past 10 games. He’s also the proud owner of a four-game goal-scoring run.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Flyers’ Radko Gudas disagrees with 10-game suspension

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Radko Gudas is just like you and I in the sense that he also expected a big suspension for slashing Mathieu Perreault of the Winnipeg Jets in the back of the neck. He was a right as the NHL Department of Player Safety announced on Sunday that he will sit for 10 games and be docked $408,536.60.

While the Philadelphia Flyers defenseman knew a suspension was coming, he didn’t think it would be as many as 10 games.

“I was surprised. I did not expect that, no,” Gudas said on Monday via Flyers TV.

All of Gudas’ previous encounters with the DoPS involved bad hits, usually to an opponents’ head. This was the first time he’ll sit due to bad stick work.

[Radko Gudas suspended 10 games]

“Before, I never used my stick in any way like that,” he said. “It was unfortunate.”

Despite the ugliness of the slash, Perreault was fine and hasn’t missed any games for the Winnipeg Jets. He was well-aware of Gudas’ rap sheet and while he said the defenseman apologized, he was weary at the thought it wasn’t intentional.

[Perreault bemoans ‘stupid’ slash]

“He apologized in the penalty box, but when you look at the replay, it looks like he did it on purpose,” Perreault said last week. “It wasn’t an accident. He’s been known for doing stuff like that, so I certainly don’t appreciate it. I’m sure the league will take care of it.”

Gudas won’t be able to return to the Flyers’ lineup until Dec. 12 and it doesn’t look like he’s going to appeal. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time he runs afoul of the NHL rulebook given this latest suspension.

“I don’t agree with it, but I accept their decision,” Gudas said. “There’s not much else I can say.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Julien: Price’s return to practice “encouraging”

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A Montreal Canadiens team struggling for answers in the early going this season got a bit of a boost on Monday.

Goaltender Carey Price returned to practice on Monday morning in Montreal, a welcome sign for a team struggling to stop pucks and desperate to start winning as they wallow in the depths of the Eastern Conference.

Price worked on lateral movements with Habs goaltending coach Stéphane Waite prior to practice starting, per TSN’s John Lu, and continued to work in the Canadiens’ backup net for the rest of practice.

Canadiens head coach Claude Julien confirmed after practice that Price would be on the team’s upcoming quick two-game back-to-back road trip beginning in Dallas on Tuesday. Julien also said Price is still listed as day-to-day and that there was still no timetable for his return. Charlie Lindgren will man the crease against the Stars.

Truth be told, the Canadiens weren’t very good with Price in the lineup before he went down with a lower-body injury, forcing him to miss the past eight games.

In 11 starts, Price has been above a .900 save percentage in just three of them and owns a 3-7-1 record. His save percentage sits at .877 with an equally unhealthy 3.77 goals-against average.

Montreal has the second-worst team save percentage in the league at .886 and have several other issues to contend with, including being 29th in goals for, 30th in goals against, 27th in power-play efficiency, 28th killing penalties and dead last in shooting percentage.

Indeed, the Canadiens will take any positives that come their way at the moment.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Down but not out: There’s hope for those below playoff line

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It’s 20 games into the regular season, give or take, and your team is looking pretty far down the standings.

It looks bad, American Thanksgiving is approaching quickly, and prayers to the hockey gods are going unanswered.

Aye, but it might not be all doom and gloom. Not yet, at least.

Take the Philadelphia Flyers, for instance.

Flyers fans are concerned given their team’s current four-game winless streak. They’ve won just three of their past 10 contests and are sitting with a less than superb 8-8-4 record.

Yet, given how tight the Metropolitan Division has started, the Flyers, who sit in the basement of the division, are only five points off its pinnacle despite their recent downswing.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, you can find some solace in that.

Anything appears to be possible in the stacked Met. The New York Rangers began the season 3-7-2 but are just three points adrift of the summit now. Sure, their 7-3-0 record in their past time games is certainly helping their cause, but it goes to show that stringing together a few wins can reverse early season misfortunes.

Now, if the Flyers could only figure out how to stop blowing two-goal leads and fix their discipline issues

Over in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Canucks have only won three out of their last 10 games dating back to Oct. 30. This, after starting the season 6-3-1.

Their recent skid hasn’t done them any favours, but the pending return of defenseman Chris Tanev could be the shot in the arm they need.

What about some of the teams that really look down and out, you ask?

The Edmonton Oilers have most certainly failed expectations so far this season.

With just seven wins and the team sitting in 28th spot in goals for, despite having Connor McDavid in the lineup, there’s definitely a cause for concern.

Their current two-game skid coupled with losing four of their past five is far from ideal, but the Oilers, despite their poor play, are only five points back of the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.

The Oilers have the goal scoring in them. They finished eighth last season in the category. Some consistency would be nice. They put up eight against the Vegas Golden Knights last Tuesday but just two goals combined in their losses to Washington prior to that game and St. Louis following it.

Continuing with the five-point trend, the Montreal Canadiens — yes, these Montreal Canadiens — find themselves five points behind the Washington Capitals for the final wild card in the Eastern Conference heading into Monday’s action.

Losers of two straight and four of their past five, things don’t look great from Les Canadiens and it would appear changes are coming.

Indeed, the problems in Montreal are numerous: low goals for, high goals against, bad save percentage, bad shooting percentage, bad power play, bad penalty kill.
At this point, it’s going to take a minor miracle in La belle province but they’re still in the mix despite their unfavourable results.

Things might be looking up, however.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck