It seems the Wunderkid has arrived.
With Patrice Bergeron on the shelf with a concussion, Bruins fans have finally gotten a taste of what they were clamoring for with every Bruins loss this postseason and every game the power play went scoreless: Tyler Seguin.
After being scratched for the Bruins’ first 11 playoff games, Seguin was inserted into the lineup in place of Bergeron at the start of the team’s Eastern Conference Finals series against the Tampa Bay Lightning and he has been nothing short of sensational. In case a goal and assist in Boston’s 5-2 Game 1 loss, the first professional playoff game of Seguin’s young career, weren’t impressive enough, the 19-year old rookie had a breakout night for the ages, racking up two goals and two assists in Boston’s 6-5, Game 2 victory on Tuesday night. Not only did Seguin assist on Michael Ryder’s game-winner, but he also contributed on Boston’s offensively starved power play, which went 2-for-6, matching its output from their previous 12 playoff games.
The question now is what’s to be done with Tyler Seguin?
Following Game 2, there is no doubt the kid has played himself into the lineup, a fact confirmed by Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli during a radio interview Wednesday morning. Despite the rumored return of Bergeron for Game 3 in Tampa on Thursday – Chiarelli also reported in that interview Bergeron participated in contact drills on Tuesday and would be travelling with the team – Seguin will be playing in Game 3. The GM, however, along with head coach Claude Julien were both very coy about how much playing time the rookie would get should Bergeron return, who Seguin would be playing with and who was going to be the odd man out?
In the perfect world scenario of Bergeron playing in Game 3, there are a handful of candidates for who will be watching in street clothes, with the odds on Shawn Thornton as the man in the suit. Prior to Tuesday’s game, the natural selection would have been Ryder. Of all the Bruins, his game might be the closest resemblance to Seguin’s, but his two goals in Game 2, which included his second game-winner of the playoffs, may have saved his job. Daniel Paille, the man rotated in and out of the line-up for Seguin all season, has proved himself to be too vital a penalty killer to take a seat as the Bruins face the vaunted Tampa power play, as has Gregory Campbell. Deadline acquisitions Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley were brought in specifically for the depth they would provide at this point in the season and both have played well this postseason, particularly Kelly, so it’s hard to believe the Bruins brass would give up on them now.
Sitting Thornton, though a logical choice given his range of skill and what he can offer the team on the ice in the playoffs, could prove to be a double-edge sword, given the wonder of what the effect of losing his emotional spark might do to the team? In spite of this, with Julien’s penchant for rolling four lines, Boston could find themselves with four sound lines if and when Bergeron returns to the lineup by sitting Thornton. The Lucic-Krejci-Horton line should be kept together, while Bergeron should be re-inserted between Brad Marchand and Mark Recchi, both of whom have seen there performance suffer without their pivot. In lieu of their strong play on Tuesday, the Ryder-Kelly-Seguin combination should be kept together to start, with Peverley, Paille and Campbell filling out a solid checking line that could show a little offensive pop.
The more important question that fewer people seem to be asking in light of the news Seguin will play is what can be expected of him in these next few games?
Yes, Tuesday’s performance was spectacular and it came on the heels of a very strong performance in Game 1, both of which came in the spotlight of the Conference Finals, but it was just one game. Can he and will he keep this pace up now that he has reclaimed his spot in the lineup? It is evident that spending more than a month in the stands has lit a fire under Seguin, but how long will it burn?
The argument for and against it can be painted the same way. Tuesday night was just the first multiple goal game of his career and the first time recording more than two points in a game. Game 1 and Game 2 marked the first time Seguin has recorded multiple points in back-to-back games. Only three times in the 74 regular season games of his rookie campaign did Seguin either have multiple points in a game or record at least a point in back-to-back games. Having such dominant games out of nowhere in the Conference Finals could mean something, but it also could not. Is this an aberration? A passing by-product of being benched? Or is this the true Tyler Seguin that will be featured in Black-and-Gold for years to come?
More importantly, how much liberty will Seguin have to let his up-paced, offensive style thrive in the clamp down, dump-and-chase, old school, defense first and only system of Julien? And if the coach should keep a staunch leash on Seguin, how effective will the kid be and would you rather have a rookie or an experienced veteran playing that third/fourth line, defense only role in the Eastern Conference Finals, knowing Seguin struggles on the defensive end?
As always with the Boston Bruins, nothing remains but a big question mark and a countdown until the next game. Though, there must be many who would rather have a question mark hanging over the possible emergence of a phenomenal talent and Bruins hockey in May, than having no questions about their team at this time of year at all.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.