BOSTON -- When the 2012-13 regular season ended and the final standings paired the Boston Bruins against the Toronto Maple Leafs for a first-round Stanley Cup Playoff series, the matchup made an impact on the Seguin family.
"I don't know if they were that happy," Bruins forward Tyler Seguin said of his family's reaction. "My sisters weren't the happiest. They've got to go to school and deal with it all, unlike me. But I don't think they care too much. They're excited that we're in the playoffs, first of all, and they're excited that we're playing them."
SOG: 161 | +/-: 23
If history is any guide, Seguin should play a huge role in his current team's attempt to beat his childhood rooting interest.
In 16 regular-season games against the Maple Leafs, Seguin has 10 goals and 16 points. That's the most points the 21-year-old has accumulated against any opponent in his three-season NHL career. He admitted after practice Tuesday the games against the Maple Leafs are "something extra special," and he's not the only one who feels that way.
In addition to being from the Toronto area, Seguin was selected by the Bruins with a draft pick that originally belonged to the Maple Leafs. The pick, which wound up No. 2 in the 2010 NHL Draft, was part of the package Toronto traded to Boston in exchange for forward Phil Kessel. The Bruins used two other picks acquired in the deal to select forward prospect Jared Knight in the third round in 2010 and defenseman Dougie Hamilton in the first round of the 2011 draft. Games between the Bruins and Maple Leafs in Boston often feature the crowd mocking Toronto's sniper with chants of "Thank You Kessel!" and booing him mercilessly.
Every Maple Leafs-Bruins game since the Kessel trade has felt like a referendum on that deal. Bruins linemate Brad Marchand said Seguin thrives on the spotlight.
"I think he knows a lot of people are watching and a lot of things are expected of him when we're playing against Toronto," Marchand said. "The fact that he came with their pick and he's from there, he's got so much friends and family there, and he's also a superstar. I think all those things combined, he's expected to bring a lot and he rises to the occasion."
Seguin's 16 goals in 48 games this season put him on pace to just about match his 29 goals from a season ago over an 82-game schedule. However, he scored once in the final seven regular-season games and the Bruins' offense as a whole stumbled to the finish line. Now it's up to Seguin to make sure those struggles don't carry over into the postseason. Against the Washington Capitals in the first round last year -- a series the Bruins lost in seven games -- it took him until Game 6 to get on the score sheet.
"I think that was almost kind of how things have gone this year, not being able to finish off chances and bury the puck," Seguin said. "But I thought, it's a year ago now, but I think I was playing well, I just couldn't score too much. And then the last few games it started paying off and it was too little too late. So I think when I look at this first-round series, it's about getting off to a better start for myself."
For most of the first half of the season, Seguin, Marchand and Patrice Bergeron formed Boston's most consistent line during their second season together. Injuries and problems on the other lines, though, forced some juggling by Bruins coach Claude Julien. Now it appears that line will be reunited against Toronto.
It's a line that will be counted on to produce and keep the opponent's top scorers off the board. And the trio has thrived because Seguin has improved enough as an all-round player to hang with his more-experienced teammates.
"I think he's matured a lot, but also he's learned to play both sides of the ice," Bergeron said. "So that really makes him a better player. I think that goes a long way when you're able to do that and do the little things, the little details, to get your linemates the puck or get the puck out of the zone, whatever it is. It makes a huge difference. And, yeah, I feel he's improved in all those aspects that you don't necessarily notice, but as a player and as a linemate it helps a lot."
Seguin's continued growth into an upper-echelon player who could continue to decimate the Maple Leafs won't make life any easier on his sisters and family back home. But in Boston, Seguin's play makes everyone thankful.
"I don't know if I can say any of us had the year that we wanted to. It was a very up-and-down year for us as individuals and as a unit," Seguin said. "But I think us as a line, when we were going, we stayed consistent for a while until things … we had injuries, guys started going out of the lineup and things started to get switched around. So I think now that we know we're back together, we went and sat down and talked about it over dinner and I think we’re going to jell right back again and get that consistency back. So this will be a great time."