By Joe Haggerty
BOSTON Tyler Seguin knows every night wont be like his first in the playoffs.
The 19-year-old was on the ice for two of Tampa Bays goals early in the Game 1 loss against the Lightning, and that certainly need to be mentioned.
But Seguin also set Bruins Nation on fire with his speed, natural scoring instincts and lethal shot, all of which are missing ingredients on a team without a lot of high-end offensive talent when Patrice Bergeron is missing. Seguin may be an unfinished product after one year in the NHL, but he still holds the elite skill set that his more accomplished, experienced teammates will never quite have.
Coach Claude Julien said he shied away from using Seguin too much in Game 1 and kept him off the woeful power play because the Bruins wanted to give him the heady playoff experiences in little chunks. It almost sounded like a mama bird feeding a baby bird so it doesn't choke.
But after recording two points, and a couple of solid physical plays followingsome early game jitters, it looks like Seguin is ready for bigger pieces of icethan the two shifts and 1:51 of ice time he landed in the second period.
Despite the long rests between shifts in the middle 20 minutes, Seguin said he was keeping mentally focused on the game and staying positive no matter what was happening around him in a pressure-packed game.
I found myself a lot of time during the season getting more frustrated then I should have been, said Seguin. With being out of the lineup for the past month, you realize a bit more how grateful you should be just to be in the lineup with the boys, sharing that experience and being part of the team. So even though I was sitting there for a bit, I was still staying ready. I wasnt getting angry and negative. I was trying to stay as positive as I can.
Theres no telling what will happen with Seguin when Bergeron jumps back into the lineup, but hes making his case to stay right where he is.
Julien made the parallel between Seguin and Flyers rookie James van Riemsdyk, who dazzled the Bruins in the second round of the playoffs. But van Riemsdyk sat at times during his rookie season, though he played a pretty complete 21 games during last years run to the Stanley Cup finals. It's not perfect, but it gives a view as to how the Bruins view Seguin's development path through his first season.
Seguin took part in some of the power-play drills before main practice on Monday, but he wasnt onone of the two power-play units that took the reps once things got moving.
Weve got different looks, weve got different players, said Julien. We want to make the power play work. Its never a bad thing to have those guys go through it. If at one point you need him, you need him. I said yesterday exactly what we wanted to do with Tyler. He hadnt played a playoff game yet, and you give him a little bit to chew, and then you give him maybe opportunities if need be in other areas.
But hes a young player that we care about and want to make sure that we develop him properly. Thats part of the decision weve made as an organization is not to rush him through anything . . .
"We understand the quality of player weve got, what he can bring and what hes going to bring in the future. Those are part of the things we keep doing with him and weve done with him all year: make him participate in all those areas where hes going to be hopefully a big factor for us in the future.
While Seguin certainly wasnt a go-to guy on a nightly basis while feeling his way through his first NHL season (11 goals, 11 assists, along with flashes of brilliance), its a bit of adifferent story in the playoffs.
The Stanley Cupplayoff are all about matchups and pairing strengths against weaknesses on the opposition, and Seguins blend of speed, skill and scoring melds in with the style of play against the speedy, skilled Lightning. Where Seguin might have been little more than wallpaper against the rugged, snarling Flyers, he fits right in against a Tampa team that features plenty of star power in Vinny Lecavalier, Steve Stamkos, Simon Gagne and Marty St. Louis, among others.
It was definitely a fast game I noticed from the first shift, just my first playoff shift, said Seguin. The speed and intensity was a lot greater than what I remember of the end of the season. I just tried to put that on my game, I try to use my speed, and it worked out in some plays.
In fact, its Stamkos that Seguin is most often compared to when his development is brought into focus over the course of his first season. Stamkos also started slowly as a rookie, but it didn't take long before he found his stride and finished strong in his rookie campaign. The 50 goal seasons followed shortlyafterward for Stamkos, and the Bruins can only hope Seguin gets on the same track.
Its flattering to hear the comparisons, said Stamkos. Sometimes they are unfair, but thats what the media does. You see his speed and you see his creativity, and his smarts and shot. If you come into this league and you have the great wheels like he does and the great shot, youre going to be successful.
He got an opportunity in Game 1 and he took advantage of it. Hes going to a great player in this league for a long time. I didnt play against him in the OHL, but I had some friends that did and said he was an unbelievable player. When you take a step back and realize that he was playing in the NHL at 18 years old . . . when you look at it that way, its remarkable. Sometimes you get caught up in putting so much expectations because you have the ability and the media puts a lot of pressure on as well . . . you can get caught up in that. I know what hes going through. But hes got so much skill that its only a matter of time before gets that full-time opportunity and thats all you can ask for as a young guy.
Seguin should once again get that opportunity to show more of that skill when the Bruins drop the puck for Game 2 at the Garden, and the rookie can only hope its a worthy encore performance.