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BOSTON (CBS) — The excuses were just preposterous.
As the Bruins’ Eastern Conference quarterfinal series with Washington unfolded game by game without Tyler Seguin recording a point through the first five contests, head coach Claude Julien, Seguin’s teammates and some of his hardiest supporters played the “age card.”
They all said Seguin shouldn’t take heat for his Invisible Man impersonation because he’s just 20. A young player shouldn’t bear the brunt of blame for the disappearance of the NHL’s third-best regular-season offense.
Luckily, Seguin didn’t hide behind those protecting him better than an offensive line of rhinoceroses. Instead of accepting that he’s young and has plenty of years to shine in the playoffs, he went out on the ice in Washington, with the Bruins in a do-or-die situation, and made sure his team lived to fight another day.
Seguin scored the game-winning goal 3:17 into overtime of Boston’s 4-3 Game 6 victory Sunday to force a Game 7 on Wednesday back in Boston. It was a fitting end to Seguin’s coming-out party of a game. He also assisted on a goal by Andrew Ference and finished the day with four shots on net.
Is he still too young, folks?
The protective rhetoric was always ridiculous. As a 19-year-old, Seguin wasn’t too young to jump right from junior hockey to the NHL last season and then jump into the Eastern Conference final and score three goals in two games. At 20 this season, he wasn’t too young to lead the Bruins in goals and points. So with the stakes at their highest, in the playoffs, he wasn’t too young to have expectations from outside observers that he’d continue his production over beyond the 82-game schedule and make the Bruins’ offense every bit as a dangerous as it was in the regular season.
It was more important that Seguin keep raising his level of play because, unlike last season, the Bruins entered the playoffs without Nathan Horton. Beyond Seguin and a couple of other players, there just aren’t that many offensive threats that teams have to key on.
Early in the series with the Caps, Seguin looked like he was 10 years old out there playing against men. Maybe that’s why so many were citing his age for why he should be immune from criticism. Around the time of Game 4, he started to reveal some of what a player of his skill-set is supposed to bring to the playoffs – complete with a nose to the net and a little more battle.
The improvement in approach didn’t pay off and Seguin didn’t consistently play at playoff level, that is, until Game 6. From early on, when he tested Braden Holtby’s glove side with a shot on the rush after blowing by Mike Green, Seguin was flying. That he thought to shoot the puck at Holtby’s mask on the rush prior to Ference’s goal shows that he’s picking up veteran savvy every second he skates.
A hard-ass might now say Seguin’s “too young” to be the target of so much praise after a historic clutch performance. But he deserves as much credit now that this series is tied at 3-3 as he did when the Bruins were just barely keeping Washington at bay in the early going.
Now we’ll see if he can continue to grow in Game 7 and extend his coming-of-age postseason at least one more series.