- On January 7, Tyler Seguin
joined his teammates on the ice at Boston University's Agganis Arena for one of the first times since playing overseas during the lockout. He was sporting a gold jersey and with his signature smile, said they "made" him wear it, in honor of his top scorer status he had earned in Switzerland.
When asked about being one of the younger members of the B's heading into the 48-game season, Seguin had said, "I know they’re going to tell me I’m young, so I have no excuse - I have to be ready every night. A short season, lots of games, but it’s going to be fun."
The Black & Gold were surely going to be counting on the youngster, who was coming in with a new six-year contract extension in tow and a career-high stat line of 29-38=67 in 2011-12, having become the youngest player in team history to hold the club's scoring title.
Fast forward to March 13, as the Bruins sit halfway through the shortened campaign, and Seguin sits at 20 points on the scoresheet, with nine goals and 11 assists, second on the B's in scoring.
But the season didn't start out that way for Seguin, who took time to adjust to the smaller North American ice surface and then scored only one goal - off an empty-netter - in the season's first eight games.
The then 20-year-old didn't make excuses, and instead, made sure that he stepped up at the other end of the ice. He was a plus-5 through those first eight games, before he saw his offense start to pick up.
"We talked about it a lot. I think, he really wants to learn, he wants to improve," Bergeron had said back on January 23, when Seguin picked off a pass and helped set up his linemate Brad Marchand for his second goal of the season. "Let’s give him a lot of credit for that, he’s got such a talent offensively that he wouldn’t need to do that."
"But, he wants to go the extra mile, get better and to improve his game. I think that’s going to make him that much better and he’s a smart player out there. If he uses that vision that he has offensively, he’s going to be hard to beat."
Now, through the first 24 games on the season, Seguin's two-way play has him currently sixth in the league in plus-minus with a plus-17 rating, just behind his centerman, Patrice Bergeron, who is ranked fourth with a plus-18. The 21-year-old now has six goals in his past seven games, adding his most recent one in the B's 3-2 loss to Pittsburgh.
"He had a slow start and for the last two weeks or more he’s just being more of Tyler," Coach Julien said earlier this week, on the youngster upping his game to its usual level, on both sides of the puck.
And before the B's game in Ottawa, Coach again talked about No. 19's upswing. "Tyler Seguin is really turning the corner right now and starting to be the player that everybody expected to see in the beginning of the season," he said. "He's had a slow start, but he's really picked it up lately."
"Good skater, he's battling a lot better along the boards, and he's doing a great job with his backcheck. Already in the last two weeks he's saved two goals by himself. It's a credit to him and a credit to that line [with Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron] the way they bought into playing all the same way."
The Bruins' best line for the past 12 games, in part to Seguin's recent output, has 41 points in that span (Seguin: 7-6=13, Marchand: 5-8=13, Bergeron: 4-11=15).
"We take so much pride in our own zone, it's because of that that we're having chances at the other end, making good plays in our own zone, getting it out pretty quick," Seguin has said of his line's ability to turn their defensively play quickly into opportunities.
So, is this the best he's felt in the NHL?
"I guess I haven't thought about it too much," Seguin said this week. "I'm just playing right now. I feel like the last few weeks I've picked it up, definitely. I felt like I'm staying consistent with my game in my own zone and obviously it's paying off in the other zone as well. I'm glad it's working out."
"I think it's all about contributing as much as you can when you're not scoring. I think I'm trying to bring my style of game and thingsI I've learned from watching Bergy as well."
"Just trying to be an elite two-way forward. That's what I want to be, so that's what I've been focusing on and it's starting to show."
There's no doubt Seguin will keep improving as a two-way player, especially alongside Selke winner Bergeron, who is closing in on his 10th NHL season with the Bruins and still getting better.
"We've always talked about," Bergeron told me in Ottawa, on his line taking pride in their play at both ends. "We want to improve, myself included. I want to learn, as well. If you work as hard as you do to score goals, to defend well that's how you get success."
Given the dedication to both aspects of their game, it's pretty remarkable to think of just how good this line - and Seguin - could become…