PITTSBURGH – Tyler Seguin didn’t register a shot on net in 13:50 of ice time against the Penguins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but he was doing many of the little things well when he was out there.
There is still a line of thinking that the 21-year-old’s speed and skill level will play in a playoff series against a Pittsburgh team that wants to turn it into a highlight reel exhibition, but for now, Seguin is just playing rock-solid playoff hockey.
The right wing is engaging in battles at both ends of the ice, and, yes, winning some and losing some. But he is getting involved and not simply racing up and down the ice firing away with shots from the outside, or failing to spot open teammates because he’s pressing offensively.
“I'll say maybe he hasn't produced it at the level that he'd like to and maybe we'd like to. But I thought he played a real good game [in Game 1]," said Claude Julien. "I thought not only with the puck, without the puck he was good. He threw some checks, puck pursuit was good, and that line to me was much better line than we've seen them in the first two rounds.
“I thought they had some chances, and I was encouraged by the way they played yesterday. As far as Tyler's concerned, he seems to be extremely focused and wants to be a better player. As a coach that's all you need to see, and at one point he's going to bust out and give us the production that we're looking for.”
As Julien mentioned, he’s playing within the third-line role he’s been cast in at this point against the Penguins, and much of what he does isn’t showing up on the score sheet.
“I’m playing my role on this team,” said Seguin. “I’m here to win games, not to want to score every single shift. Obviously it gets frustrating at times, but we’re winning games. It definitely makes you happy and it’s a fun time right now.
“It’s just really doing more simple things, I guess, whether it’s making sure you don’t lose any battles out there or just being good in your own zone. That’s what I’m focusing on right now since the goals aren’t coming.”
While the simple things and winning battles are a good place for Seguin to be in a playoff battle against the Penguins where they’re fighting for every inch, one goal and a minus-2 in 13 playoff games is not where anybody envisioned No. 19 at this point in Boston’s playoff run.
It will be a bit more of a challenge for a breakout to happen when he's alongside players in Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley that have struggled all season, and when his ice time is limited. But great players rise above those kinds of things to make an impact. That’s the challenge set for Seguin two years after he burst onto the playoff scene with a big Game 2 in the Eastern Conference Finals.