|TYLER SEGUIN Breakout season|
Seguin causing idol talk
You don’t have to be among the most devout of the Spoked-Believers to instantly identify the Bruins’ top line these days. It’s simple. Whichever line Tyler Seguin is skating on is the Bruins’ first line of offense.
If he’s skating with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand, then that speed-to-thrill trio gets the No. 1 designation. If he’s dashing down right wing with Milan Lucic and David Krejci, like he has been for the last five games, then the label makes a line change. Just add Seguin and skate, instant offense. In the five games with Krejci and Lucic, the trio has combined for 10 goals and 10 assists.
It’s remarkable how imperative Seguin has become to the Bruins’ offense considering where he was at this time last season as a rookie - the press box. Last March 10, Seguin was a healthy scratch against the Sabres, sitting up in Level 9 of TD Garden with the Lords of the Laptop. This year on March 10, when the Bruins face the Capitals at TD Garden on Saturday, Seguin will enter as the Bruins’ leading point producer (55), goal scorer (24), and, warming the heart of coach Claude Julien, the NHL leader in plus-minus (plus-35).
“He’s a different player,’’ said Krejci, who has benefited from teaming up with Seguin, scoring five goals in the last five games. “We all knew what he had last year, but he’s using his experience from last year and last year’s playoffs. He’s just a different player. He uses his strength very well. It’s good to see him produce this year as he has so far.’’
Seguin’s breakout season isn’t breaking news, but it’s still worth highlighting for those who have been distracted by the Red Sox’ road to redemption, the Patriots’ playoff run or the saga of the presumptive final act of the Celtics’ Big Three Redux.
The expectation when the Bruins tabbed Seguin with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 draft was that he could become a franchise forward. Seguin, who still isn’t old enough to order a drink, hasn’t just taken a step in that direction this season, he’s leaped like Michael Jordan taking off from the free throw line.
Despite protestations to the contrary, the Bruins and Julien got it right the way they handled Seguin last season. This season is proof. They didn’t stunt his growth. They nurtured it, sticking him in an ice hockey incubator for a year until he was ready to not only play as a top-six forward, but to become the offensive pulse of the team. Seguin could become the type of hockey idol this town hasn’t had since Ray Bourque.
Whether he wanted to or not, the wunderkind acknowledged sitting last season had a positive impact.
“Oh, absolutely. I’ll never forget that,’’ Seguin said. “You’re never going to forget being up there. You learn a lot from it. I still cherish my time that I had up there. Obviously, I didn’t enjoy it. You learn a lot from watching from above.’’
Seguin was pretty much watching when the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last year. He was a spectator until Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, and only got on the ice because Bergeron was out with a concussion. Seguin made the most of his opportunity against the Lightning, registering three goals and three assists in the first two games of the series.
If Seguin is sitting again this year in the playoffs, then the Bruins won’t be lifting Lord Stanley’s cherished chalice.
Tim Thomas’s stingy play in net is essential to the Bruins’ success. Zdeno Chara is the backbone of the blue liners, and Bergeron is the heartbeat of the Bruins. But Seguin is entering the sine qua non sphere of importance for the Bruins himself.
That has become more evident with the absences of forwards Nathan Horton, who has missed the last 20 games with a concussion, and Rich Peverley, who has sat out 11 straight with a sprained ligament in his right knee.
The Bruins, who Saturday are looking for their first three-game winning streak since they ripped off seven straight in December, are just trying to stay afloat and out of the trainer’s room until the playoffs. In addition to Horton and Peverley being rendered hors de hockey, backup goalie Tuukka Rask is also on the shelf with a groin injury.
Seguin, who has four goals and three assists this month in five games, and fellow young winger Jordan Caron have been like a pair of jumper cables for a Bruins offense that had stalled.
Caron, the Bruins’ first-round pick the year before Seguin, has three goals and three assists in his last three games. He was promoted to the second line during Thursday’s 3-1 win over Buffalo.
The Bruins will need both young forwards to stay hot as they try to maintain playoff positioning over the final 16 games.
“You gain so much experience from your first year and your first few games,’’ said Seguin. “If you look at a guy like Jordan Caron, right now he’s going through it. You just gain experience. You gain so many little tricks, whether it’s finding opportunities or finding scoring zones or pick-pocketing guys that are 10 years older than you with 30 or 40 pounds on you sometimes. Those little tricks you learn are why you gain confidence and get better.’’
Seguin’s sophomore season hasn’t been perfect. He was benched for a game in December when he missed a team meeting. Seguin said his alarm clock failed. It was more likely that it was his better judgment that malfunctioned in Winnipeg.
But it’s just a reminder that Seguin is playing beyond his years.