TORONTO Things were all set up for the Toronto Maple Leafs to have their glorious homecoming at the Air Canada Center --much of it atthe expense of the Boston Bruins.
The Leafs were riding high as the NHLs best team on the strength of their impressive early won-loss record. They boasted two of the seasons most prolific scorers in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. And the game operations people even had a cute little jumbotron show planned out for the Bruins upon their arrival in the Toronto barn for the big weekend tilt.
First there was a Kessel highlight reel video rolled out in the first period with Kessels goals spliced in with film clips frommovies with characters named Phil prominently featuredlike 'Groundhog Day' and 'The Hangover'.
The Kessel highlight video ended with a very understated Go Phil Go! in giant white letters on the screen, and then flashed to an unknowing Kessel on the Toronto bench staring intentlyat his stick like it was about to burst into flames.
But the Leafs didnt stop there.
Then the Air Canada Center game operations staff rolled out graphics boasting former Bruins prospect Joe Colborne as the AHL Player of the Month for October. Basically the Leafs were goingto thump their chests just a little more about anything they could think of cobbling together and throwing at the Black and Gold.
It felt more than a little desperate for a Toronto hockey club looking for any way to brand itself as winners after the Kessel deal dramatically altered both the Bruins' and Leafs' franchises three years ago.
Needless to say, none of those window dressing touches helped Toronto where it mattered most --on the ice --Saturday night. Local boy Tyler Seguin registered his first career hat trick in sparking the Bruins to a 7-0 shellacking of the Leafs a development that surely had Boston fans chanting Thank You, Kessel at their television sets.
The 19-year-old dominated on the strength of a perfect three shots on net for three goals that paced a varied Bruins attack that included three goals produced bythe previously strugglingDavid Krejci, Milan Lucic and Nathan Horton lineas well.
"Its absolutely special. This is a memory I'll always look back on fondly, said Seguin. My first hat trick was in Toronto. It wasnt something I really expected at all. Growing up I always dreamed Id be out on the ice scoring a hat trick at the ACC, but I never really cared who it was Id be playing for.
There was even Gregory Campbells first goal of the season in the third period, but there was little doubt it was the Tyler Seguin Show against the Leafs in a win the Bruins needed very badly.
The three goals showed different strengths in Seguins game that have truly developed in his second season, and it all starts with his skating. Seguins burst and top gear are noticeably quicker than last season, and hes able to sustain it for longer periods of time an asset that allows the young winger to get into ideal scoring areas with or without the puck.
Whats the best theory floating around in the Bs dressing room as to why it took a season for Seguins skating to truly flourish?
Hes an 18-year-old kid with size 13 feet, said an incredulous Tim Thomas. It takes a while to get that going.
Seguin definitely got it going with the three goals that started with a power play strike in the first period that served as an important momentum builder. Rich Peverley carried the puck through the right face-off circle and found Seguin camped, cocked and ready to shoot before throwing a perfect seam pass that the teenager finished off.
Then Seguin showed his elite handeye coordination in the second period when Patrice Bergeron lobbed a pass thatbounced off John Michael-Liles' stick and went airbornetoward the front of the net. Seguin used his hockey stick like a baseball bat and chopped at the puck before it took a wobbly arc over Ben Scrivens shoulder into the net for his second goal of the evening. Most impressive of all was the way Seguin shook off a punishing Joey Crabb hit in the corner ona previous shift, and instead made Toronto pay on the scoreboard. A year ago Seguin might have been discouraged after getting pummeled in the corner with a little piece of NHL physicality, but things have most definitely changed.
Lucic scored another goal off the next face-off eight seconds later to further deflate the Leafs after Dion Phaneuf fell asleep at the wheel, and Seguin finished off his goal-scoring night with a true two-way score.
Seguin stripped the puck from a Leafs skater in the defensive zone, started the transition game back going the other way and finished off another Bergeron feed by going top shelf to the glove side to cap off the road hat trick. Chris Kelly joked after the game that it was Seguins Selke Award goal for the evening his two-way work that led to it all.
There were screams of celebration from Seguins family attending the game at their home NHL rink, and there were screams of the blood-curling variety from Leafs fans hoping it was all a bad dream.
The three goals give Seguin 14 points (7 goals and 7 assists) in 12 games for the Bruins this season, and keep heightened expectations that the 19-year-old is rapidly developing into a true point-per-game player they havent had since Marc Savards first season in Black and Gold.
I think Seguin has all the attributes to become an elite player in this league, said coach Claude Julien. Hes starting to show it at a young age of 19. A lot of it will be up to him and both how much he wants to work and his approach to the game. We always tell guys to never get bigger than the game.
Hes got a great demeanor about him. Hes all about team. He enjoys the game and he wants to be a guy that you put out there in all situations. Hes become a guy that Ill put out there at the end of the game to protect a one-goal lead in last minute or so. Hes done well enough to earn it, and also that he wants it. I am one of those guys who has belief in him.
Coming on the heels of a hat trick performance against the Leafs on Hockey Night in Canada, the number of Tyler Seguin believers in the world grows by an exponential figure each time he hops over the board and dashes out on the ice.