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Claude Julien on Tyler Seguin: ‘As long as he’s growing and getting better, I’m going to keep supporting him’

06.16.13 at 3:05 pm ET
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Tyler Seguin set up the Bruins' winning goal last night, highlighting a Game 2 performance that Claude Julien praised. (AP)

Given the speed and skill that allow him to take over a hockey game at his best, it’s easy to forget that Tyler Seguin is still younger than most college seniors. While Seguin hasn’t often played the game he’s capable of in these playoffs, Bruins coach Claude Julien, impressed with his young forward’s effort in Game 2 on Saturday, reminded reporters of Seguin’s relative inexperience on Sunday.

“He’s only a 21-year-old kid – this is his third year,” Julien said. “Sometimes patience doesn’t mean just for one year. Patience means a little more than a year. As long as he’s growing and getting better, I’m going to keep supporting him.”

Despite receiving a rogue fourth-place vote for the Selke trophy as the league’s best defensive forward this year, defense has not been a hallmark of Seguin’s game through the first three years of his career. In Game 2, though, he made a few plays of which Patrice Bergeron might have been proud, forcing turnovers and breaking up Blackhawks plays.

More notably, Seguin was alert enough to take advantage of a failed breakout pass in overtime on Sunday, setting Daniel Paille up with all kinds of space to score the game-winner. Seguin was skating with Paille and Chris Kelly, a line that accounted for both of the Bruins’ Game 2 goals, making perhaps his biggest contribution of the postseason in a bottom-six role.

“Yeah, very easy to play with,” Seguin said of Paille. “I think we’ve both got some good speed and we use each other. Obviously, I think [Kelly] is a very responsible centerman – definitely does the extra work. I think us three as a line worked out well.”

True, one game won’t change the perception that Seguin doesn’t quite meet his potential in the playoffs. This year, he has one goal and five assists through 18 games. That’s in line with his numbers from 2011, when he saw limited time: three goals and four assists through 13 games.

But while those statistics do indicate subpar performances, they certainly don’t mean that Seguin is out of time to improve. Game 2 was an encouraging sign for a Bruins team that would welcome the offense that Seguin can bring – although they certainly won’t turn up their noses at improved defensive play either.

“Right now, the only thing you’re kind of waiting for is the end result,” Julien said. “The end result doesn’t always have to be a goal, because what he did last night is just as good as a goal, on that pass to Dan Paille.”

It’s a modest achievement, but Seguin’s two assists so far in the Finals are already more offense than he produced last round, when he went without a point in four games against the Penguins. He also tied his postseason high with eight shots in Game 1 in Chicago (with the caveat that he had the equivalent of almost two full games to get there).

Julien hasn’t hesitated to take action when he thinks Seguin is underperforming, moving him out of his top-six role earlier in the postseason. But when Seguin puts in the necessary effort, Julien is willing to give him time to come up with the results.

“I think he had a slow start, obviously, in that Toronto series,” Julien said. “But his game got better. When you see his compete level, how hard he works to get to the puck, get the puck, hang on to it, stuff like that, it got better. As long as he continues to play the way he has, I thought last night was an excellent game for him. Made some good plays, was there, everywhere around the puck, second effort was there. That’s all you can ask.”

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