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Seguin on a learning curve

Slow start is part of his adjustment

By Fluto Shinzawa
Globe Staff / April 19, 2012
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ARLINGTON, Va. - Tyler Seguin led the Bruins in scoring during the regular season. In 81 games, he had 29 goals and 38 assists for 67 points.

After three first-round playoff games without a point, Seguin acknowledges it’s another sport being played right now.

“You can’t really get back to that pace in the playoffs,’’ Seguin said. “It’s not the regular season. It’s the playoffs. It’s different. It’s different hockey.

“It’s just about finding your way around it. It’s my first time playing in Round 1 of a playoff series. I’m still adjusting to it. I still have some work to do.

“I’ve had three games now to watch the team and see what I need to improve in my game. I want to bring that to the next game here.’’

The Bruins were hopeful that, as a second-year pro, Seguin would be an offensive force in the playoffs. He was a healthy scratch for the first two rounds of last year’s postseason.

For most of this season, Seguin showed a much hotter battle level than he did as a rookie. But in the first two games of this series against the Capitals, he appeared to be affected by the intensity of the showdown.

Seguin leads the Bruins with 10 shots through three games, but none has beaten Washington goalie Braden Holtby. Seguin has a 0-0-0 line while averaging 19:05 of ice time per game. Few of his shots have been the Grade A scoring chances the Bruins would like from their most gifted offensive threat.

“I’ve had a decent amount of shots so far in three games,’’ Seguin said. “It’s just about finding more high-scoring chances. I’m still learning.’’

Seguin is not alone among his top-six mates in his offensive struggles. Of the Bruins’ six most offensive-minded forwards, only Rich Peverley (one goal) and Patrice Bergeron (one assist) have hit the scoresheet. In Game 3, Brad Marchand didn’t land a shot. David Krejci put only one puck on Holtby.

The flickering presence of the Bruins’ skilled lines is why coach Claude Julien switched Bergeron and Krejci in Game 3. Bergeron usually centers Marchand and Seguin. Krejci has been the pivot for Peverley and Milan Lucic.

The shuffled lines - Bergeron between Lucic and Peverley, Krejci centering Marchand and Seguin - remained intact during Wednesday’s practice at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex.

“It’s more of what I liked about the individuals,’’ Julien said. “Milan played good. He was solid. He played a physical game. He was skating better, carrying the puck better. He was just a better player.

“With those line changes, some of those guys, even Marsh was better. He’s got some areas that he wants to keep getting better at.

“With Seggy, he’s got some shots in this series. I thought he battled a lot better than he did in the first two games. To me, everybody improved. We’ll keep going with that.

“The one thing I do know is that if I decide to put the old lines back together, they’re very familiar with each other. That won’t be an issue.’’

Although Seguin showed more spirit in Game 3, he had his ice time limited in the third period, skating only four shifts. Seguin played 13:42 total.

“That’s a question for the coaches,’’ Seguin said. “They’re the ones who decide how much you play. We were winning the game. In the end, that’s all that matters.’’

Even without their top two lines going well, the Bruins own a 2-1 series lead because of the contributions of their grinders. Benoit Pouliot, Chris Kelly, and Brian Rolston have connected for three goals. In Game 3, Daniel Paille scored a critical second-period goal to tie the match at 2-2.

Life could be far easier for the Bruins if their most dangerous forwards get untracked. Marchand, Krejci, and Seguin could have more scoring chances in Game 4 Thursday night because of Nicklas Backstrom’s suspension.

In Game 3, Krejci’s line was matched against Backstrom’s line, and Backstrom is Washington’s sharpest playmaker. With the less dangerous Mathieu Perreault expected to center the second line between Jason Chimera and Alexander Semin, the Capitals might have less offensive zone time. As a result, Krejci’s threesome could have more room to work their stuff at the other end.

The top two Boston lines haven’t had much time to acclimate to their new configurations. They weren’t informed of the Bergeron-Krejci swap until right before puck drop in Game 3. Seguin had time skating with Krejci for stretches late in the regular season. But Bergeron has been Seguin’s most regular center.

“It’s too soon to tell,’’ Krejci said of any chemistry with Marchand and Seguin. “They’re both great players. They obviously play a little different hockey. Time will tell. It’s too soon to say.’’

Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at fshinzawa@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.

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