I will not say, “He’s arrived!” I will not even say this was his “coming out party.” It was but one game. One goal. Not nearly a big enough sample size to anoint anyone anything.
I will say this, however: Tyler Seguin picked a really good time to show up in these playoffs.
When the Boston Bruins woke up Sunday morning, they were but 60 minutes of hockey from a pre-mature end to their repeat bid at the hands of the Washington Capitals. Had the Bruins dropped three straight and fallen to the Capitals in Game 6 of their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series, it would have been a disappointing end to their season and in the resulting fallout, there are some out there who would have been quick to blame Seguin, the team’s leading scorer in the regular season, and his lack of production in the playoffs as one of the top two at fault for much of the Bruins offensive woes to this point in the postseason.
Seguin saved himself the ridicule, however, with a brilliant performance Sunday afternoon. Seguin played like a man of fire from the onset with near tallies in his first shift of the game, ending the day with his first two points of the playoffs, which included the game-winner in overtime.
As a result, when the Bruins woke on Tuesday morning, they found themselves with one more day of rest before taking to the ice for a pivotal Game 7, with those very same nonexistent stars from the series’ first five games to thank for picking up the team when they were needed most to force the do-or-die, series finale. And for those Seguin detractors who were getting ready to rip the kid had the Bruins fallen, I ask you this: Where were you when you were 20-years old?
If I do my math right, I was finishing up my sophomore year in college, with big city dreams of not selling insurance and one day enjoying a fruitful writing career. The biggest worry I had when it came to hockey was making sure the club team had enough guys show up at road games. Certainly not the slightest worry about carrying an NHL team, the defending Stanley Cup champions no less, through a postseason. Is it fair of any of us to expect Seguin to do so?
Seguin took a quantum leap in the regular season with a dazzling sophomore season that saw him lead the Bruins in goals (29), game-winning goals (7) and points (67), while finishing second in the NHL in plus/minus (+34) and becoming a key cog in an offense that tied for second in the league in goals per game (3.17). The puck dropped on the Bruins’ first round series with Washington, however, and Seguin was nowhere to be found. Through the first five games of the series, Seguin took a team-high 20 shots, but was a mere +1 with no points, averaging just over 18 minutes a game. And it was not just on the score sheet where Seguin was lacking, he was rarely noticeable on the ice as well. Even if they are not without merit, the high expectations on Seguin are still too much to ask.
Many used the rational that Seguin had experience a Stanley Cup run as a 19-year old rookie last year and then saw such great improvement during his All-Star year this season, these playoffs would be but a breeze. Seguin, however, did not get on the ice last postseason until the Conference Finals and it was only because of injury that he found himself in the line-up. What many failed to see when assessing Seguin’s potential during this year’s playoffs was that the pressure to perform had never been on Seguin like it has been these last six games.
Seguin has shown flashes of a brilliance Bruins fans have long yearned for, demonstrating he has the potential to take over a game and carry a team. He is, however, still putting on his big boy pants, something this playoff run could go along way in helping. A superstar in the making. Not a superstar yet. While Seguin cannot be expected to carry a team, he is still one of their most important tools for success.
In order to take advantage of his potential, head coach Claude Julien and the Bruins staff still need to be conscious of putting Seguin in situations where he can succeed. It should come as no surprise he got going once joined with the Bruins other top offensive threats in Milan Lucic and David Krejci, as opposed to playing alongside the defensive-minded Patrice Bergeron or on a mismatched third line with Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. Seguin, Krejci and Lucic combined for all of two assists through the first five games in the playoffs. Joined late in Game 6, the trio tripled their output, racking up two goals and four assists.
The Bruins should continue to look to do much of the same if they want to advance past the Capitals in Game 7. The Seguin-Krejci-Lucic group puts the Bruins three best offensive threats on a line that is able to exploit all of their strengths. The beastly Lucic should be looking to use his size and strength to clear the space needed for to take advantage of Krejci’s playmaking capabilities and Seguin’s speed and sharp-shooting. They are the offensive spark the Bruins have been looking for this postseason and the spark the will need for an elongated run.
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.