After early jitters, Tyler Seguin plays the game he and everyone else was waiting for
|05.15.11 at 1:38 am ET|
The positives for the were scarce for the Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals Saturday, but there were certainly encouraging signs. Some of those signs came from rookie Tyler Seguin, who overcame a rough start to his first playoff game and ended up with a goal, an assist and some signs of physicality.
Early on, it was unclear whether Seguin could be a factor or whether he would fall into old habits. An early minus-2 rating and a bad turnover that nearly cost the team a goal were it not for a great play by Andrew Ference certainly provided reason to believe the latter could be the case. As is the case with goal-scorers, all it took was him scoring to make a difference.
For those who have whined for Seguin to get into the lineup, the rookie’s first-period goal was exactly what they were talking about. Seguin took a pass from Michael Ryder (who also assisted his first career goal back on Oct. 10) in the neutral zone, showcased his fanciness in going through Mike Lundin in embarrassing fashion for the Lightning defenseman and beat Dwayne Roloson to make it 3-1.
“I think coming into the first period, I was definitely very excited,” Seguin said following the game. “I found myself running around just a little bit just because I had so much legs. After I had that goal, it was a bit of a sigh of relief and I could be more poised out there.”
It would be a while before Seguin would show that poise. He didn’t play the rest of the period and had to wait until midway through the second before getting back on the ice, making it 14:56 without a shift for the rookie. He would play only two shifts in the second period, partially a result of lots of special teams work (five penalties between the two teams), as Seguin does not play on the power play or penalty kill.
Still, just five minutes of ice time through two periods for the team’s only goal-scorer to that point was a big surprising to see. For someone who had spent the previous 11 playoff games in the press box, Seguin wasn’t complaining.
“It’s frustrating, but it’s a lot better than being up in the stands where you can’t contribute at all,” Seguin said. “At least there I could be out with the boys and motivating everyone. Everyone was trying to keep their heads high that point. We were running into a lot of PK’s and a lot of power plays and trying to get one there before the end of the second but it didn’t work out.”
Julien would eventually reward Seguin, who also put a big hit on Lundin in the second period. The rookie was given more regular shifts in the third period, and was even temporarily promoted to the second line with Brad Marchand and Johnny Boychuk.
“It was just to make sure he got in the game,” Julien said. “He skated well, he had a goal, had some opportunities, and this was an opportunity for him to go in and help us out. So that’s, with all the power plays and penalties and stuff that we had, it was important to move Tyler into some spots here and that’s all we did.”
His time out there would result in one more Bruins goal, a tally from Kelly in which Seguin picked up a helper. Yet through everything that he displayed — speed and skill the most obvious — nothing may have been more encouraging than the fact that he threw his body around a bit. He still had his moments where he slowed up heading into corners, but he took steps that if built upon could go a long way.
“[I realized from watching] up top you kind of have to do everything,” Seguin said. “And I also want to bring a physical approach to the game and appearance. I tried doing that a few times finishing my checks.”
So what is ahead for the rookie? Julien clearly looked at Seguin’s entire first period rather than just his goal, but in the end, the play the 19-year-old made was the most explosive of the night for the Bruins. Could it mean an uptick in minutes? Perhaps. Asked whether it could finally mean Seguin’s return to the power play, the coach offered a smile and a “no comment.”
Maybe he won’t get back on the power play, but if he can play the way he did starting late in the first period Saturday, the rookie may finally have the impact he and so many others hoped he could in his first season.