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Barry Melrose on M&M: Shawn Thornton deserves to be in lineup

05.18.11 at 4:12 pm ET

ESPN hockey analyst Barry Melrose joined the Mut & Merloni show Wednesday afternoon to talk about the Bruins’ 6-5 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals Tuesday night. To hear the interview, go to the Mut & Merloni audio on demand page.

Melrose was quick to compliment the play of Bruins rookie center Tyler Seguin, who tallied four points (two goals, two assists) in Game 2.

“He certainly rode over the horizon at the right time on his white horse because Boston needed a spark and Seguin, in the last two games, has given Boston a spark,” Melrose said.

Seguin, who scored only 11 goals in the regular season, patiently waited for his opportunity and took full advantage of it in crunch time.

“He’€™s done everything right,” Melrose said. The kid’€™s kept his mouth shut. He’€™s never complained. He’€™s never gotten his agent involved. He’€™s never gone to the press. And when he got a chance to play in Game 1, bang, he was great. And then in Game 2, when they put him on the power play, bang, he scored.

“That’€™s what he has to do. He’€™s letting his actions speak for himself, and now Claude [Julien] has to play him. And the kid doesn’€™t hurt you defensively, he competes. Is he going to win the Selke award? No. But the guy who wins the Selke isn’€™t going to make the plays that Seguin is making either.”

Seguin’s play reminded Melrose of that of former Bruin Rick Middleton, who wore the spoked B from 1976-88. Melrose noted that both forwards brought speed and an ability to split the defense. This quality frustrated the Lightning throughout Game 2.

“They like a slow game,” Melrose said. “They don’€™t want to see a team come into the neutral zone with speed, and last night Boston was coming through the neutral zone with speed, especially Seguin. He was flying through that neutral zone and it really caused Tampa a lot of problems.”

Asked about the play of goalie Tim Thomas in Game 2, Melrose emphasized the result over the individual performance.

“He won, and that’€™s all that matters,” Melrose said. “He found a way to win. He wasn’€™t great, but the guy stopped four breakaways. The [Ryan] Malone stop probably changed the game because 20 seconds later Seguin scored his second goal of the game and that made it 4-2. He stopped a couple other breakaways and he made that great save on [Marc-Andre] Bergeron in the last minute of the game. The good news is he wasn’€™t great, you know he’€™ll be better, and you won the game. But obviously if Boston’€™s going to win this serious, Timmy’€™s got to be better.”

Though Thomas was not at his best, the B’s defense wasn’t playing any better. In fact, both defenses were sloppy throughout the “pond hockey” style game, Melrose said.

“I think mistakes cause turnovers, which cause chances,” Melrose said. “Neither defense played very well. They both made mistakes. In the neutral zone there were a lot of mistakes. [Zdeno] Chara didn’€™t get it deep once and it turned into a goal in the Boston end. … They were not making good passes. A lot of passes were at the feet. Guys were cheating, which meant that they were leaving the zone before the puck got out.”

There are two questions Bruins fans want answered for Game 3: Will Patrice Bergeron (mild concussion) play, and who’s minutes will Seguin take if he does return? Regarding Bergeron, Melrose said it’s always better to  be cautious when it comes to concussions.

“The doctors make the decision on a concussion,” Melrose said. “The coaches have no say in it. You saw a shot of him sitting in the crowd last night with [Marc] Savard. They both looked great. They both looked super. But that’€™s not how concussions work. The minute your heart rate gets up, all of the sudden you feel dizzy, get a headache, and that’€™s the symptoms.

“The coaches don’€™t have a choice. When the doctors say he can play he can play. Not before that, and not a minute before that. And they would be crazy to be fooling around with Bergeron. This is a guy you hope to be the cornerstone of your team for the next 10 years. Yes, it would be nice to have him back for this round. It might be a difference-maker, but like I said, you want him for the next 10 years, not the next 10 minutes.”

Asked who Seguin would be replacing, Melrose failed to come up with one name. He said that Shawn Thornton, who some believe should be the one to lose minutes, deserves to be on the ice.

“Thornton supplies you grit, and I really hate taking tough guys out of the lineup because I think they do the dirty work all year long,” Melrose said. “It’€™s a reward for them to be in the lineup. Even if they’€™re not playing much, they deserve to be in that lineup.”

Melrose mentioned that right winger Mark Recchi and left winger Daniel Paille, who is on the penalty kill, may be better candidates to sit out. However, he also noted that it’s better to have too many available players than too few.

“It’€™s a good problem to have,” Melrose said. “It’€™s a problem that three days ago they weren’€™t worried about. They were trying to find enough guys to play. Right now the Bruins have to think that Bergeron is not coming back. That’€™s how to handle it. … If he comes back, great, but the way to handle it is that he’€™s not coming back and we’€™re going to win with this group that is in the lineup right now.”

With the series knotted at 1-1, Melrose said he believes that the Bruins have the upper hand to punch their ticket to the Stanley Cup.

“As I said from day one, I like Boston,” Melrose said. “I like their depth. Obviously, Bergeron being out really creates a different set of problems, but I thought Boston with Timmy Thomas in net. I thought Boston’€™s defense is better. I thought it would be a low-scoring series, believe it or not, because both teams stress defense. And I thought Boston would do a good job on Tampa Bay’€™s power play, which they haven’€™t done so far. But I think Boston is the team to beat in this series.”

Read More: Barry Melrose, Claude Julien, Patrice Bergeron, Rick Middleton
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