BOSTON -- Tyler Seguin's debut in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs thrust him from an understudy role to a starring part with three goals in two games against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final.
Seguin's start to his first NHL postseason as a team focal point after leading the Boston Bruins in goals and points as a second-year pro during the regular season has seen him recast as a bit player by a suffocating Washington defense and outstanding goaltending from Braden Holtby through two games of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
Seguin is not alone among the Bruins' struggling top-six forwards. Boston has scored just two goals so far, and both came from third-line forwards Chris Kelly and Benoit Pouliot. It'd be easier for the Bruins to stomach their lack of production if their chances were all Grade-A. Instead they haven't been able to generate anything off the rush and most of their shots have come from the perimeter with Holtby able to see them as clear as a 747 rolling down the runway.
That's something Seguin hopes to change as the series continues.
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"I've got to do better, I think. I think there's a lot of areas I want to improve on," Seguin said after the Bruins held a meeting and off-ice workout Sunday at TD Garden. "I think the main thing is being consistent. I think playoffs is all about getting out of your comfort zone – whether it's blocking a shot or hitting a bit more or going to the net a bit more, things you're not used to. I think for myself, I have shifts where I'm doing that well and I have shifts where I have a turnover that I'd like to take back. So I think that if I can establish being a bit more consistent and having two games out of the way, bring that to Washington."
Seguin has shown brief flashes of an ability to better assert himself in the first two games of the series. In the third period of Game 2, he chipped the puck behind the defense and won a physical battle to recover it and set up a scoring chance for linemate Brad Marchand, who shot wide. However, there have been a few more sloppy miscues – including one bad pass that led to an Alexander Ovechkin scoring opportunity – than playoff-style plays.
"I think there's been a couple plays like that that I'd like to stay consistent with. Then you go out and have a shift where you're not going to have the bounces your way. But in playoffs, you don't talk about the bounces, you talk about the end result. And so hopefully we can step up on the road," Seguin said.
Seguin, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron can take some solace that they've so far kept Ovechkin in check. None of those three Boston forwards were on the ice when the Russian sniper recorded his only point of the series, an assist on Troy Brouwer's goal in Game 2.
It can be grueling chasing around Ovechkin, both because of the importance to keep so close to him, but also because of his willingness to throw his body around. Marchand's not making any excuses for why his line hasn't been able to carryover its two-way success from the regular season to the playoffs.
"I think we have to be better," said Marchand, who along with Seguin was among Boston's six 20-goal scorers in the regular season. "We're definitely doing a pretty good job of playing against their line and part of our goal is to shut them down. But we do have to find a way to create more opportunities and be better offensively."
If the Bruins' second line can at least let other people make the excuse for them that they're bearing the most defensive burden in the lineup, Boston's first line of David Krejci centering Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley has no such alibi. That trio's offensive chances have been few and far between.
"Well I think when those guys aren't as effective as they should be, a lot of times they force plays. I think that's what's happening right now," head coach Claude Julien said. "One of the issues too is [Peverley] missed a lot of hockey and he's just coming back and they've got to get themselves in sync a little bit. In order for that to happen sometimes you've got to simplify you're game, versus the other way around. Maybe right now they're trying to be a little too cute and forcing some passes where either it's a forced play or the guy's not expecting it and vice versa."
One goal scored per game is not going to cut it. The Bruins know that, and they know they can't rely on their bottom-six forwards to carry the load.
"They're obviously doing a good job in their defensive-zone play and they're making it real tough on us. That's something that we're going to have to find a way to battle through," Lucic said. "And the good thing is it's still 1-1 and there's a lot of hockey left to play in this series and it's up to us to kind of kick it into gear and find ways to battle through their tight, defensive checking and create opportunities for us. It's a mindset that we want to win those battles, we're going to come out with the puck and when we get it we're going to make good, strong plays and make the most of it."