BOSTON – Tyler Seguin was worth the wait
Despite urging to the contrary, Boston coach Claude Julien tried his hardest to shelter the precocious Bruins rookie, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft. After Seguin posted just 22 points in the regular season – struggling mightily down the stretch – Julien did not want to feed the first-year pro to the playoff wolves that make the spring a most dangerous season for the uninitiated.
Yet, when Patrice Bergeron went down in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Julien's hand was forced when Round 3 began. He had to put Seguin in the lineup, albeit reluctantly.
To say that the results have been stunning would be an understatement.
In his first six periods of hockey, Seguin has 3 goals and 3 assists. Tuesday at TD Garden, Seguin almost singlehandedly saved Boston's season, putting up 2 goals and 2 assists, including one on Michael Ryder's game-winning goal in a wild 6-5 victory.
"Yeah he was extremely good tonight, there's no doubt about that, one of our best players out there," Julien said. "And he used his speed very well tonight. He challenged their (defense) with it, did a great job. And it was nice to see him respond that way. He's competed extremely well and he's been an excited individual waiting for his opportunity, and he's certainly making the best of it."
For Seguin, who heard his name chanted repeatedly throughout the final two periods of the game, Tuesday was pay back for what can only be described as the most humbling month of his illustrious hockey career.
With 106 points in the Ontario Hockey League last season, the supremely-skilled Seguin was drafted to be a difference-maker. Yet, he was not being allowed to do so this season when the games became more important.
It was a blow to his pride for sure, especially when critics talked about him not being physically strong enough to handle the grind of the postseason or suggesting that he was afraid of contact.
"Whenever I face adversity, I always try to take a negative and turn it into a positive," he said. "Watching the first two rounds, I could still learn a lot and see the game from up top. So whenever I get the opportunity again, whether it's getting cut in World Juniors and going back to the OHL or being the press box and coming back to the team, I want to take advantage of every opportunity."
He handled his exile to the press box with a grace and dignity that suggests he is learning the sometimes hard lessons of becoming a professional in a sometime cruel profession.
Maybe that is why so many of his teammates had smiles on their faces Tuesday when they talked about Seguin's performance. It was the first time a teenager had scored 4 points in a postseason game since Vancouver's Trevor Linden accomplished the feat against Calgary back in 1989 -- three years before Seguin was even born.
He also was the first player to record six or more points in his first two career playoff games since 1982, when Barry Pederson (7 points), Dale Hawerchuk (6) and Mikko Leinonen (6) all did so.
"It puts a smile on your face at a time when you are so focused, so into the game that it is tough to smile at times," linemate Chris Kelly said. "I was real excited for him to go out there and perform the way he did."
For Mark Recchi, the smile was even bigger and the pride was even more intense. Recchi, a veteran of 22 years of NHL battles, has served as one of Seguin's primary mentors. Tuesday, Recchi realized that Seguin is learning the lessons that have been delivered at various points during the past nine months.
"He stayed sharp and worked hard," Recchi said. "He worked hard with the other guys and he stayed ready. When you lose a guy like Bergy and you come in and have an impact, that's great.
"It was a learning process for him all year. He had to learn how to compete and be a pro and he was willing to and he did and he understood it, which was great. He worked hard through this past month and he got an opportunity and took advantage of it. It's great to see. When you get a sniper like that that can skate, it's great. It just adds another weapon to what we have already."
By the end of the night, 17,000-plus at the Garden were chanting Seguin’s name, putting an exclamation point on a night Seguin will never forget.
"Obviously it's a great compliment whenever you have great fan support, so I definitely appreciate that," Seguin said.
Not as much as the fans – or the Bruins – have appreciated Seguin's decision to throw his coming-out party at the most-important junction of the team's season.