BOSTON – It’s one of those moments we all remember. Tyler Seguin exploding for two goals and two assists in just one period against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals. After a tough rookie campaign and playoff press box assignment, Seguin exploded onto the hockey scene with an epic Game 2 performance.
For anyone drafted first or second overall expectations hit a new level, and considering Seguin’s predecessors, the pressure is even greater on 21-year-old to produce. After struggling to adjust to both the physicality and speed of NHL hockey, and scoring only eleven goals in his first year pro, Seguin made a big jump.
Finishing his second season with a team leading 29 goals and 67 points, the Brampton, Ontario native looked to be in route to stardom; he was in line with the likes of Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Taveres, poised to make the huge year three jump.
But, it didn’t happen. While 16 goals in a lockout-shortened season is still 30 goal pace, it wasn’t the jump many Bruins fans expected and hoped for- especially after signing a six-year contract extension.
The pressure continued to mount after Seguin failed to record a point until the last possible moment of a first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. His assist, however, came on the Patrice Bergeron Game 7 overtime winner, and was what many thought the needed confidence boost for the young start to rise again.
In the first period of Sunday’s Game 2 tilt between the Bruins and Rangers, Seguin’s wheels were on display. He also made his best pass of the playoffs thus far, delaying at the left circle to find the open man, Adam McQuaid, who put a shot on net but was denied by Henrik Lundqvist.
It was probably his best period in a while, but looking good and producing are two different things, and Seguin, who had lots of shots on goal in the Toronto series, knows he must start putting up points; and his play went downhill from there.
In the second period the young forward was nearly invisible. While other youngster like Torey Krug were once again making noise, both Seguin’s play and time on ice continued to dwindle. And while unexpected contributions particularly from the back-end are a welcome surprise, they often don’t last and the Bruins’ most “skilled” forward needs to make an appearance.
Everyone knows this team is at its best when playing their system to perfection, and rolling four lines is a crucial aspect of that success. If Seguin can elevate his play it could do wonders for Rich Peverley and Chris Kelly, as the speedy trio has the potential to be an impactful unit down the stretch.
With a 5-2 victory in the books the Bruins now head to NYC with a commanding 2-0 series lead.
As the game went on Seguin’s ice-time dropped dramatically, and he even skated a few shifts with the fourth line. Could Bruins coach Claude Julien be sending a message? Could a healthy scratch be in place?
Knowing Julien this seems unlikely, but you could argue the timing is perfect. Being too patient can be faulty, and an explosion like we saw in the 2011 Eastern Conference Finals could be a key factor in closing out the Rangers.
Or, maybe Seguin just needs to follow the lead of his Bruins counterpart- Brad Marchand. Some would argue that Marchand was even worse than Seguin in the Toronto series, but he’s flipped the switch come round two in a big way.
“Well, he seems to be skating better in regards to that. He might’ve seemed a little slow at times, I think sometimes when you’re over-thinking, you put too much pressure on yourself, it just weighs on you,” Julien said postgame.
“Right now, it’s just a matter of going out there, almost the same thing as the young guys, ‘Go out there and play.’ He’s a quick player, he’s a shifty player, and he’s very capable of doing that. He knows defensively tonight there was a couple things, not so much the puck that didn’t make it across on the first goal, but probably how he reacted to coming back. There’s certain things we talk about, but you’ve got to encourage those guys to keep doing the things that they’ve been good at doing. To me, he’s played two solid games for us.”
Seguin’s play portrays a similar lack of confidence, as he continually struggles to find his explosiveness and finishing ability.
Whether it be a lucky bounce, big hit, or press box assignment, something must spark Seguin’s game soon or the Bruins could be in big trouble. No way the Rangers continue to play this poor defensively, and they’ll need all four lines to contribute.
The watch continues…
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