The kid’s gloves are off
It is the stuff of legends.
Teen angel Tyler Seguin could not get on the ice for any of the Bruins’ first 11 playoff games. He watched the first two rounds from the press box, surrounded by sportswriters. This would make any young talent feel like a loser.
It took a Patrice Bergeron concussion to get Seguin in a game and he responded with a breakaway Orr-esque goal in the Bruins’ 5-2 Game 1 loss to the Lightning. Still, he played less than 10 minutes of that game (mostly garbage time) and stubborn coach Claude (a.k.a. “Grady’’) Julien would not put him on the power play.
Last night, Seguin exploded for two goals and two assists in the second period of a pulsating 6-5 series-evening victory over the Bolts.
“I try to take a negative and turn it into a positive,’’ said the 19-year-old rookie. “I think it’s just a learning curve. As I went on, I felt more confident, more poised.’’
Four points in a single period of playoff hockey? Bobby Orr never did it. Phil Esposito never did it. Cam Neely never did it. It ties a Bruins postseason record. Seguin has 6 points in two games.
Think maybe he gets to play in Game 3?
It was said that Dean Smith was the only guy who could hold Michael Jordan below 25 points per game and now we’re wondering what Grady’s been doing with his top draft pick. The teen angel was buried in series against the Canadiens and Flyers. Julien reluctantly went to the kid only when it was clear Bergeron could not play.
Last night was Seguin’s coming-out party. It was like watching Tom Brady carve up the NFL in the autumn of 2001. It was like watching Jacoby Ellsbury rattle four hits in his first World Series start after being buried behind Coco Crisp.
Bill Belichick was in the stands and Seguin’s performance must have taken him back to the days when he started Tom Brady over Drew Bledsoe. Coach Hoodie’s pal, Bon Jovi, is probably already at work on “The Ballad of Tyler Seguin.’’
OK, enough with the hyperbole. Perhaps this was just a fluke. Surely, Julien knows what he’s doing. He’s a hockey lifer and he no doubt had good reasons to keep the kid in shackles. Seguin scored only 1 point in his last 23 regular-season games. The Bruins deemed him soft and small. Maybe just scared.
But now the gloves are off and the speedy forward must play.
“Tyler is obviously playing, without a doubt, his best hockey of the season,’’ said Julien. “He was extremely good tonight, no doubt about that. One of our best players. He’s been waiting for his opportunity and he made the best of it.’’
There was some tension on Causeway Street late yesterday afternoon when a radiation leak was discovered in the Tip O’Neill Federal Building adjacent to the Garden. The culprit was old equipment, presumably left behind by Homer Simpson.
The Bruins trailed, 2-1, after the first period. Then came the second period and the Seguin explosion.
After playing only three minutes of the first period, Seguin tied it, 2-2, in the first minute of the second with another one of those acceleration breakaways. He split the defense, went in alone, and feathered a backhander past Dwayne Roloson for his second goal in two games.
“I’ve been working on driving to the net, cutting through the neutral zone,’’ said Seguin.
Emboldened by Seguin’s first goal, the Bruins took a 3-2 lead on a David Krejci goal off nifty pass from Dennis Seidenberg in the third minute of the second. Then Seguin scored again (pass from Nathan Horton), at 6:30 of the second to make it 4-2.
After the Lightning cut it to 4-3, Seguin (finally on the power play) hit a slapper that Michael Ryder put back for a 5-3 lead.
By this time, Bruins fans were chanting, “Let’s Go, Seguin.’’
“I did feel that,’’ said Seguin. “You’re confident when you have great fan support. I do appreciate that.’’
Then Seguin assisted on another Ryder goal and it was 6-3.
The Lightning had a new goalie for the start of the third and Julien had Seguin on the ice for the start of the period.
A star was born.
Bruins general manager Peter Chiarelli was asked if this game made it all worthwhile to trade Phil Kessel for the pick that landed Seguin.
“It’s going to be worth it for a lot more than that,’’ said Chiarelli.
Seguin remembered the dark days of watching the games with the media.
“Shawn Thornton came up to me and said, ‘If we’re going to the Cup, you’re going to get an opportunity.’ It was tough watching, but now I have an opportunity and I have to seize it. I know the injury [Bergeron] came and I wanted to take advantage of the ice time. If the opportunity comes next time, I’ll try to do the same.’’
Red Sox manager Dick Williams once benched Joe Lahoud after Lahoud hit three homers in a game.
I’m thinking Claude wouldn’t dare send Seguin back to the press box tomorrow.
If he does, we’ll let the kid write a sidebar ripping the coach.
Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.