I wonder which wise guy at Tuesday’s press conference following Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals was the first to ask Claude Julien if Tyler Seguin would play Game 3.
I’m sure that one got a chuckle from the assembled media scrum, and having been in a few of those in my day, I have nodoubt whatsoever that someone lobbed that question at the Bruins head coach. It’s possible there were multiple reporters tripping over each other for the honor.
Seguin was a spectator for the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which isn’t unusual for a 19-year old rookie — even if said rookie was the No. 2 overall pick in last summer’s draft. He recorded a goal and an assist in his playoff debut in Game 1, but still he was only in the lineup at all because top center Patrice Bergeron was out with a concussion. (Side bar: How many Bruins fans, upon hearing the announcers refer to “Bergeron” for the first time in this series, got excited thinking Patrice had made a miraculous earlier-than-expected return to the lineup, only to be let down to learn it was actually Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron?)
Seguin had his share of ups and down this season, which also is not at all unusual for a kid that young. He had only 11 goals and 22 points in 74 games, and was one of the only Bruins skaters with a negative plus/minus (his minus-4 was second worst on the team).
So with Patrice Bergeron set to return any day — likely as early as Game 3 tonight in Tampa — it seemed the former Plymouth Whalers star might be skating on borrowed ice time in these here playoffs. Before Game 2, it was probably assumed he’d return to watching from the press box as soon as Bergy was ready to go.
PUT ME IN COACH: Seguin is ready to go for the Bruins, whether at home or on the road.
But after putting forth what easily stands as his best performance as a pro, and being arguably the best player on the ice for the victorious Bruins on Tuesday, the thought of Seguin not playing when the two teams hit the ice this evening is pretty much inconceivable. His four-point night (two goals, two assists) sparked the Bruins to a thrilling 6-5 win in a game the home team couldn’t afford to lose after dropping Game 1 on Saturday.
Seguin breathed life into Boston’s non-existent power play, logging about a minute and a half of ice time with the man advantage as the Bruins went 2-for-5 — matching their total output for the previous 12 games combined (2-for-41). It’s been well documented that Boston won their first-round series against Montreal in seven games without scoring a single power-play goal (0-for-21), the first time a team has advanced without scoring such a goal in a series in NHL history.
I started scribbling out this blog post after Seguin’s second goal — both were beautiful “goal-scorers” goals — and didn’t even get halfway through that process before Seguin added two helpers and staked Boston to a 5-3 lead.
Now one great game does not a “star” make, but once again he was the second pick in his draft year, so the pedigree is there. Bruins fans certainly hope there are many more games like Tuesday’s in the years to come for this youngster, selected with what would have been Toronto’s draft pick before they shipped it off to Boston in the trade for Phil Kessel.
BALANCING ACT: Seguin is savvy enough to know his place on the Bruins is wherever they need him.
It’ll be interesting to see how Julien uses Seguin for Game 3 if Bergeron does return — and all indications point to that happening — whether he’ll continue to get time on the power play or not, and how he’ll handle his road playoff debut.
What I’ll also be curious to see is who the odd man out will be if both are in the lineup. The Bruins haven’t had much of a varied lineup throughout the playoffs, skating the exact same 12 forwards for every game until Seguin spelled Bergeron the past two contests. It’ll likely be either Shawn Thornton (one assist, a minus-1 and 2 PIM in 13 playoff games) or Gregory Campbell (1-2—3, team-worst minus-3 and 2 PIM).
Either way, if the rest of the games in this series can come close to the excitement of Game 2, hockey fans are in for a treat.