For all the grooming, all the patience and stubbornness, there is one simple reason why Claude Julien still deserves criticism today.
Had Patrice Bergeron not suffered a concussion, last night may never have happened.
Greatness can be achieved from the downfall of others. You need only go back to Mo Lewis' debilitating hit on Drew Bledsoe to understand that. But even as that story goes, there were rumblings that Bill Belichick had decided to hitch that Patriots season to Tom Brady anyhow had Bledsoe had a lackluster performance against the Jets. There was no indication that Julien would be willing to do the same with Bruins rookie Tyler Seguin, despite a matchup against the Lightning that seemingly seemed well-equipped for his toolset and speed. The way he played Seguin even after he scored in Saturday night's Game 1 loss seemed to support that.
But in one of the greatest coming out parties the Garden has ever seen, a two-goal, two-assist night in Boston's 6-5 nail-biting win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, Seguin forced his way into the Bruins' lineup for the foreseeable future. We think. Should Bergeron be healthy enough to play tomorrow night, when this Eastern Conference Finals series shifts to Tampa, odds are that Shawn Thornton will be a healthy scratch and Seguin will once again take the ice. Unless Julien still feels he needs to get in the kid's head. Or if he reads Seguin's sister's Twitter account.
In one night, in one stunning period, really, Seguin has changed the entire complexion of this team on the fly, elevating Michael Ryder's game in the process. As if that weren't miracle enough, he aided on the power play, lifting it to effective level that it hadn't seen since Marc Savard was lacing them up instead of waving to fans on the press level. Baby steps are tough to watch, but there are few more satisfying moments to witness in sports than when they explode into a night of athletic maturity.
And it may not have happened.
You can't argue with the results thus far. Julien got the Bruins past the Canadiens. Barely. Then, he marched them to the Eastern Conference Finals with a convincing four-game sweep of the Flyers. But all the while, Seguin sat, waiting. Wondering.
Who knows, maybe with a healthy Bergeron, the Bruins don't lose 50 percent of their faceoffs Saturday night, and perhaps his presence is enough to overcome the Seidenberg-Kaberle blunders that led to a pair of Lightning goals. But as good as Bergeron has been this postseason, and despite what he would have brought to the table in Game 2, he doesn't do what Seguin did last night.
Bergeron looks to be back on the ice tomorrow night, a major lift for these increasingly compelling Bruins. Seguin too. Through two playoff games the kid has three goals, the same amount another one-time, held-back, 19-year-old Bruins rookie who wore No. 19 has in 14 playoff games for the San Jose Sharks.
Joe Thornton's playoff line in his rookie season: 0-0-0.
Tyler Seguin's: 3-3-6
Still, holding the kid back was the right thing to do. Seguin needed to get a feel for playoff hockey, a totally different beast from the regular season, when he showed these flashes of brilliance, yet struggled most of the year, as any 19-year-old probably would. But last night, he forced his way onto the ice, a convincing performance that even Julien can no longer ignore.
And it took a concussion for it to happen.