PITTSBURGH – Tyler Seguin didn’t play in the first two rounds of the 2011 postseason before coming alive in the Eastern Conference finals, and the Bruins have to hope history will repeat itself. It has so far, as there hasn’t been that much proof that Seguin has played the first two rounds this year.
You can like that Seguin is on the third line or you can wish he were back with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand. Wherever he plays, he needs to start scoring. With points in his last two games, the B’s can only hope that he’s turning a corner just in time for what could be the toughest series they’ll play.
This series is going to feature a lot of scoring from the Penguins. No, they might not light up the B’s for five goals a night, but conservatively speaking you have to allow for the possibility of Pittsburgh netting three a game (in the regular season, they scored three, two and three goals in their three meetings against the B’s, but that was all without Evgeni Malkin). The Bruins don’t just need to slow down Pittsburgh’s offense; they need to outproduce it. That means they can’t afford to go another series with their most talented scorer doing zip.
Through 12 playoff games, Seguin, who finished second on the team in the regular season with 16 goals, has scored once. And it’s not like he’s been a selfless playmaker, as he has only three assists for a total of four points.
That lack of production won’t fly if the Bruins want to get past the Penguins. Seguin turned it on early in the Eastern Conference finals (his first career playoff exposure), scoring three goals in his first two games before coming back to earth and playing sparingly through the rest of Boston’s Cup run (just one assist and no goals in the 11 games that followed his two-goal, four-point Game 2 performance), so the Bruins will look for him not just to repeat past conference finals success but to exceed it.
One of the major differences between the Bruins and Penguins right now is that the Bruins have gotten to this point without getting the most from some of their top scorers (Seguin and, to an extent, Marchand), while the Penguins are firing on all cylinders. The Bruins will need their best players at their best unless they want to lose in a short series.
Consider this: The Penguins’ top four goal-scorers in the regular season were Chris Kunitz, James Neal, Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby. Those players make up the Penguins’ top-four goal-scorers this postseason, with Evgeni Malkin and Jarome Iginla also tied with Kunitz for fourth on the team with four goals.
Translation: The guys whom the Penguins expect to score have been scoring this postseason. There’s been no issue there.
The top three goal-scorers for the Bruins in the regular season were Marchand (18), Seguin (16) and Nathan Horton (13), while David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Daniel Paille all had 10 goals. Krejci and Horton have held up their end of the bargain with five goals apiece, while Torey Krug and Johnny Boychuk round out the top four with four goals apiece (with Krug's stats more impressive than anyone's given that they've been achieved in just five games).
Marchand being tied for eighth with two goals isn't a great look, but at least one of them was a game-winner in overtime. Seguin's one goal puts him in a tie for 10th on the Bruins.
Here’s the difference between Marchand and Seguin though: If Marchand isn’t scoring, there’s more he can be doing. He’s a good two-way player. He kills penalties. Seguin is among the most gifted at what he does, and that’s score. When he isn’t scoring, he isn’t very effective.
After going without a goal in the first 10 games this postseason, Seguin finally netted his first tally of the playoffs when he gave the Bruins the lead back in the third period of Game 4 against the Rangers. He then set up Krug’s power-play goal in Game 5, so there are at least a couple of bright spots from which he can build.
“I think Tyler’s been fine,” Claude Julien said Wednesday. “If anything, he’s competed a lot harder. He’s battling, he’s in there. I think on the power play he’s made some good plays and he’s done a good job. I think right now, to me, that line in the last two games were better. They’re kind of, I think, getting to know each other a little bit better and finding each other on the ice a little bit easier.”
It looks for now as though Seguin will stay on that third line with Chris Kelly and Rich Peverley. If Julien wants to give the team a bit of a spark (or if he feels Jaromir Jagr can’t keep up with the Crosby line), that could change. What’s most important is that those numbers from Seguin change. Against a team that can score as much as Pittsburgh, his offense is nothing short of essential.