DETROIT While Tyler Seguins rookie season hasnt lived up to the hype machine this humble hockey writer was included in that fickle piece of machinery and the patently unfair Steven Stamkos comparisons, the 19-year-old has shown he knows how to rise to the occasion.
And he did it again Sunday.
After sitting out a pair of games as a healthy scratch including an epic beating of Montreal that must have been difficult to watch from the press box Seguin was back in the lineup Sunday afternoon at Joe Louis Arena.
More than simply filling a spot, though, he scored a goal in Bostons 4-2 loss and was as involved and engaged as hes been all season. The 19-year-old finally raised his game to the intensity level and pressure needed as the season heads into its final two months.
Seguin was also in the middle of a neutral-zone breakdown that led to Detroits game-winning goal by Kris Draper in the second period. Dennis Seidenberg joined Andrew Ference to help prevent Patrick Eaves from gaining the blueline on one side of the ice, and Draper sneaked behind an unsuspecting Seguin for an odd-man chance that he buried high to the blocker side of Tim Thomas.
He kind of sneaked behind all of us, and me and Seidenberg talked about it after the play to make sure it didnt happen again, admitted Seguin.
But thats part of the roller coaster, up-and-down polarizing process that comes with breaking a raw hockey talent into the best league in the world.
Mark Recchi has seen a lot of prodigies come and go over his 20-plus years in the NHL, ranging from Eric Lindros to Sidney Crosby, and hes worked side by side with many of them in their rookie forays into the league.
That gives him a unique ability to look at Seguins first season with more perspective than the average Bruin.
Recchi didnt deny Seguin was more of a raw project from a maturation perspective than Stamkos, Crosby, Eric Staal, Jordan Staal or any of the other young players hes helped shepherd along the way.
Absolutely. Maturity-wise, yeah," said Rechhi.
"But were watching him mature as he goes, and thats great. He wants to get better, and you see it. The worry would be if you didnt see that in his eyes. But I do. This is a process for him, and this is real learning year for him, said Recchi of Seguin, who has nine goals and nine assists this season and is pacing for close to 30 points. You can see it. You can see hes maturing as the year goes along. Hes a good kid that wants to get better. But hes also very raw, and hes got a lot to learn.
We know hes talented as hell and hes going to be a great player. His attitude has been great through all of this. Its not always easy going out, but you go and you work hard, get in the gym, and build up your strength. This is a building year for him toward bigger and better things.
Did everyone -- including expectant teammates, excited hockey executives and prone-to-hyperbole media -- perhaps underestimate just how raw Seguin was headed into this season?
I think so, said Recchi. I mean, hes really, really raw, but hes going to get polished. Hes working with the coaching staff and being around Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, watching how to play center, is going to help him for sure. Just by watching how they handle things and how they do things is a great thing for him. Bergie is very professional in how he prepares for games, and its really good for Seguin to see that. Bergie really isnt that much older than Seguin, so its really good.
Hes working at it and hes really getting there. Hes really starting to figure out what it means to be a pro and what it takes to be a good player
There is one thing Seguin showed on Sunday and has done throughout the season that portends something bigger and better coming: His response when hes pushed a bit by the team. Whether its a healthy scratch or the looming threat of being returned to junior hockey, every time something has been thrown at the youngster hes responded with vigor and production.
Seguin scored a goal in a 2-0 win over the Maple Leafs just hours before he learned he wouldnt be returned to juniors after moments of uncertainty, and he responded again with a goal in Philadelphia just as he was rumored headed back to the World Junior tournament.
Following his first healthy scratch of the season on Dec. 15 against the Buffalo Sabres, Seguin again responded with a strong effort at the Bell Centre vs. the Canadiens.
That Seguin string of cause-and-reaction extended to Sundays solid offensive showing against the Red Wings. Seguin earned more than 13 minutes of ice time, put a pair of shots on net and played with some physical engagement and battle thats necessary for everyone this time of year.
I wasnt thrilled about being scratched. You want to be playing in every possible game that you can, said Seguin. I felt great today. I felt like I had my legs and I felt like I really wanted to get more involved in plays. I thought I did a better job than I was doing before, and that I was playing a little more consistently.
You really see the game from a different perspective while sitting. You realize you have more time with the puck to make plays than you think you do on the ice. You have that extra second to make that smart play. I think there still some glimpses of me throwing the puck away a tad too early, but I think Im on the right track.
Its impossible to expect Seguin to be the finished product when so much strength, experience and confidence is still missing from the final polished hockey package, and it wont be present at any point this season.
Versus and NBC analyst Mike Milbury was 100 percent dead on the money when he said on WEEI 850 earlier this season that Seguin wont be an impact player for Boston this year, and was roundly criticized for it.
But just because Seguin wont be a top shelf offensive player right out of the gate this season doesnt mean that the fast-moving, dangerously-skilled puck prodigy cant help the Bruins.
With his speed and shooting ability Seguin can and will help, and hes already proven hes up for a challenge when its thrown in front of him.