Precocious Seguin shows he belongs
No sooner had The Kid scored his first career goal on North American soil (OK, ice), when the chant came rolling down from the stands.
“Thank you, Kessel!’’ they chanted, over and over again.
Oh, those witty fans. Who among the sellout TD Garden crowd of 17,565 didn’t know that Tyler Seguin was the first, but by no means the last, dividend from the trade that sent Phil Kessel to the Toronto Maple Leafs? And they were not about to allow Mr. Kessel to forget it.
It’s not as if the Leafs regret the deal. Kessel scored 30 goals for them in an injury-shortened season last year, and team president/general manager Brian Burke is on record as predicting 40-plus from the speedster this season. But the fans weren’t going to pass up the opportunity to have a little fun at Kessel’s expense.
“I was really trying not to laugh,’’ said Seguin, whose second-period goal created a 2-0 score that held up nicely till the end last night. “It shows the support of the fans we have here in Boston. It was pretty funny for a lot of us.’’
The Kid wasn’t being disrespectful. He was just giving an honest answer. He’s 18, and without guile at the present time. Check back in 10 years.
As for Mr. Kessel, he was somewhat less than amused.
“I could care less, to tell you the truth,’’ he said. “It doesn’t matter to me one bit.’’
What he might care about is that in seven games against his old team, he has zero goals and one assist.
“Well, I had some chances,’’ he said. “What can you do?’’
It was a momentous night for Tyler Seguin. He scored goal No. 2, and his first before a home crowd (the other was in Prague). He did it against his hometown Maple Leafs, which means there was a vast TV audience in Greater Toronto. And he learned after the game that the terrifying notion that he could be returned to junior hockey as part of team salary cap manipulations was officially, and unequivocally, off the table. Claude Julien made that official.
The Kid is cool. He was prepared for the worst, and he wasn’t about to make a public fuss.
“Maybe when I’m in my room late at night I’ll think about it,’’ he had said before getting the good news. “When it comes to right now, I’ve got to stay focused.’’
He added that he wasn’t going to worry about it until Game 9. Game 10 would have been the cutoff.
But that was yesterday’s news. Today’s news is that the Bruins shut out a team that has been playing very good early-season hockey, and Tyler Seguin was right in the middle of it. Those proverbial young legs are here to stay.
It was somehow fitting that it was Milt Schmidt Night at the Garden. The Bruins chose last evening to honor their nonagenarian (92) legend, bringing in Schmidt’s family, and also fellow Bruins celebs Bobby Orr, Ray Bourque, Johnny Bucyk, and Terry O’Reilly to assist in the re-hoisting of Schmidt’s No. 15 to the Garden rafters.
Once upon a time, Milt Schmidt was the Bruins’ wunderkind. He was not yet 18 years old when he took the Old Garden ice for the first time in 1936.
“Seventeen?’’ said Seguin, his eyes widening. “He must have been pretty good.’’
Yes, son, he surely was, and the frustration of it for Bruins fans of the time is that we will never know how many Cups the Bruins would have gobbled up had not a little annoyance called World War II intervened. The Bruins had won the Cup in 1939 and 1941, and their nucleus was all under 25 when they marched off to war.
Tyler Seguin was taking it all in; don’t you worry about that.
“Of course, I was,’’ he said. “That was the first time I’ve experienced anything like that. To see all those grown men crying. That motivated all of us.’’
Orr and Bourque also suited up for the Bruins at 18. Perhaps the brass was thinking some of their good karma might rub off.
The Seguin goal came just after the expiration of a Boston power play, and it was set up by a needle-threading inside-out pass from defenseman Dennis Seidenberg.
“Seids and I have been working on that,’’ Seguin explained. “Usually, it’s on the power play. This one was even strength, I guess. He found the stick, and made a perfect pass.’’
The fans, and, yes, we in the media, will focus on the goal. That’s unavoidable. But The Kid is wise enough to know that his ice time will depend as much on his ability to play a two-way game as it will be on his ability to put the biscuit in the basket, as welcome a skill as that may be. It’s no secret that one reason Phil Kessel wears a Toronto sweater nowadays is that he didn’t quite fulfill Boston management’s vision of the all-around player.
“I have just been trying to get a lot better in my own zone,’’ Seguin said.
“I think he’s improved every game,’’ Julien had said earlier in the day. “He’s improved since day one. He’s an individual that catches on pretty quickly, on what’s going on around, and we’ll never question his skill, his speed, and his ability.’’
Tyler Seguin has already figured out when his true arrival as an NHL force will be notarized.
“Hopefully, someday I can go into another barn and get booed,’’ he said.
It’s going to be an NHL barn, not a junior barn. That much we know.