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On Hockey

No kidding, he seized moment like an old pro

By Kevin Paul Dupont
Globe Staff / April 23, 2012
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WASHINGTON - The Bruins drafted Tyler Seguin in June 2010 as a one-day game-breaker. On Sunday, with Game 6 on the line against the Capitals, the baby-faced 20-year-old was their season-saver.

Set up by an alert play by David Krejci and a perfect dish by Milan Lucic, Seguin dashed toward the net from high in the offensive zone, flashed a quick glance at advancing goalie Braden Holtby, and had the composure to keep the puck, wait out the unforgiving moment, and eventually broom the winning goal into an empty net. Wednesday, Game 7, at the Garden.

Not bad for a kid who, if he were playing for one of our town’s Beanpot entries, probably would just be wrapping up his freshman year and heading to Ontario’s cottage country for the summer.

In that one intense moment in another team’s building, with the Bruins one goal from surrendering their Stanley Cup title, Seguin went from whizzing wunderkind to wily veteran, his skill and sense coalescing in one of those moments when the game was his to have, and he took it. Kid carpe diem. We will see, but it may prove to be the moment that he looked in the rearview mirror, waved goodbye to the kid in the fading distance, and claimed the leadership role that has been his to have since the Bruins selected him No. 2 overall in the draft.

“I saw the goalie challenging,’’ recounted Seguin, standing outside the Boston dressing room with the bulky hero’s chain and padlock draped over his neck. “So I just tried to make a quick move there, and . . . got lucky it went in.’’

Luck comes in many forms, not only at this time of year but also through the 82-game drudgery and grind of the NHL’s regular season. There are shots that have no business going in the net, but because hockey is hockey, full of ricochets, deflections, rebounds, and pinball justice, luck too often rules the scoreboard.

There was little, if any, luck in Seguin’s senior moment. Krejci made a good play, repossessing the puck around the blue line. His pass to Lucic was quickly relayed right, the Washington defense scrambling as if frantically called to action by Homeland Security, and Seguin summoned his own jets. He went roaring right down Broadway, got Holtby to buy his quick sashay, and then smartly and emphatically delivered the goods.

No luck in that. Just skill.

“Smart enough and poised enough to wait the goalie out,’’ assessed Dennis Seidenberg. “He held on to it and put it in the net. Nice play. I looked over at Z [defensive partner Zdeno Chara] and he had the same kind of look in his eye.’’

The kind of look between the veteran defensemen that said, “Well, now, what have we here?’’ The kid with the No. 19 on his back shut the joint down, bringing a crowd of 18,506 nearly to silence and setting the Bruins up for a fifth Game 7 in their last six playoff series.

“Fitting for him to get that goal,’’ said coach Claude Julien, his club in Game 6 finally working with a lead (1-0, 2-1, and 3-2) for only the second time in the series. “He had to be patient there to finish it off.’’

Fitting, said Julien, because on Saturday in Boston Seguin came within about, oh, an inch of knocking home a goal early in the third period that would have pulled the Bruins into a 3-3 tie. Set up alone at the left post, he pushed a forehander on net, only to have Holtby drop to a split and reject it with a toe save. A little quicker on the release, a touch sharper on the lift, and Seguin would have had the equalizer. Instead, Holtby had the 10-bell stop of the series.

“We have to see a young player gain some confidence if we are to be a better team down the stretch,’’ mused Julien, impressed, too, by a strong defensive play Seguin made Sunday to set up an earlier goal by Andrew Ference. “He’s grown and matured. He understands more and more what it means to play a great two-way game.

“We are proud and pleased by what he’s done, and tonight he showcased some of what he’s got going forward.’’

Seguin’s play on Ference’s strike was equally impressive. He disrupted Alexander Semin’s attempt to unload on Tim Thomas from the left faceoff circle, and again fired up those ferocious legs for a streak up right wing. Holtby held his ground this time - perhaps why he chose to vacate the crease on the OT goal - which in turn got Seguin to thinking.

“The first thing that came to mind was pass,’’ said Seguin. “But I got closer, and decided to shoot for his head, thinking maybe we’d get a rebound.’’

The high shot was on target, nailing Holtby just under the mask, and leaving the rebound hot in the slot. A trailing Ference swooped for a quick lift from about 10 feet, good for a 3-2 lead with 8:03 left in regulation. Seguin’s OT heroics were needed because Alex Ovechkin nailed in the 3-3 tie with quick snipe off a faceoff with 4:52 to go in regulation.

“I heard Segs yelling, he wanted it,’’ said Lucic, replaying the winner that had him perfectly releasing the pass. “Krech did a good job of getting the puck, getting it to me, and one of their D came right to me. Segs was yelling, and I put it right in his triangle [space framed by Seguin’s stick, body, and the ice), and he was gone. Goalie challenged him, and he did a really good job of waiting him out.’’

Such plays have a way of freezing time. Decades ago, when Hall of Famer John Bucyk was on the watch, he had a great knack for doing that. The Chief, impossible to move off the crease, would collect pucks on the doorstep and paralyze goaltenders. They knew what was coming. Their choice was stand and watch, or go for the poke. Either way, Bucyk would hold for that split second, time and space would collapse at his command, and then he would finish off with one of his trademark roof shots under the crossbar. The puck would catch the net and slingshot down by the goal line. He scored 556 goals in his career. He had enough of those rooftop shots to fill the back of a flatbed Ford.

Tyler Seguin, all kinds of wonderful and promise and speed and skill, had one of those moments in time at 3:17 of OT on Sunday. Something similar could happen again on Wednesday. Maybe. Maybe not. But Game 6, Capitals-Bruins, could be the game in which he really grew up.

Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at dupont@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at GlobeKPD.

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