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Bruins

Tyler Seguin Ponders Whether Playing In Europe Affected His Game In NHL

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Tyler Seguin (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Tyler Seguin (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — Goal scorers like to score goals. It’s what they’ve always done and it’s what they always expect to do. So when a goal scorer is going through an extended drought from burying the puck, that goal scorer can often do the worst thing a player can do: think too much.

That seems to be taking place with Tyler Seguin. The Bruins’ young star celebrated his 21st birthday last week, but that’s about all the celebrating he’s done this season, as he has just one goal (an empty-netter) through Boston’s first eight games of the season. For a forward who led the team in goals and points last season and looked to have only gotten better while tearing up the Swiss league with 25 goals and 15 assists in 29 games during the lockout.

Now, though, with a lot of time to think and over-think about his lack of goals, Seguin admitted he questions whether playing in Switzerland helped or hurt his game.

“I still don’t think I regret going over there,” Seguin told ESPN.com’s Joe McDonald. “But sometimes I’ve been thinking the last few days [that] maybe going there wasn’t the greatest idea. But I wanted to play and I had fun times.”

It’s not unusual for a talented player to allow doubt to creep in during an extended goal shortage, particularly one as young as Seguin. And in this instance, it’s clear he at least accepts the possibility of the adjustment from the Swiss League back to the NHL to be a difficult one.

“It’s not easy there,” he told McDonald. “People need to go over there because it’s a lot harder than you think. It’s a very good league. It’s so different. When you come back here, you’ve got to try to adapt back. Even [Patrice Bergeron] can’t seem to find the net right now. We’re playing on bigger ice over there.”

There is no doubt a huge difference from the game in Switzerland to the NHL game. The one constant from watching all of Seguin’s highlight videos for Biel, aside from the phenomenal flame-filled leading scorer jersey and helmet combination, was a lack of hitting and physicality that suited a skilled goal-scorer like Seguin. With more room on the ice to operate and with less of a physical struggle to do what he wanted, it was no surprise to see Seguin succeed in Switzerland. Obviously, in the NHL, nothing ever comes easy. Vacated spaces that were there in the Swiss league get closed in a split-second in the NHL. Passing and shooting lanes are now filled with bulking defensemen, and there’s just no easy way to get to the net with the puck on your stick.

Yet while Seguin may have had a bit of a wake-up call upon returning to the NHL, that’s not the reason he’s yet to score on a goalie this season. He’s skating well, he’s finding space and he’s making the right decisions. Plus, he’s contributed in two shootout wins already this year, scoring on a dazzling move against Winnipeg and scoring on two consecutive attempts a week later against New Jersey, after a spectator threw a sausage on the ice during his first attempt. So while he may not be finding the net during play, his skill-set have still played an important role in the Bruins’ 6-1-1 start. A player of Seguin’s caliber will eventually get his goals, and one person not overly concerned with the transition is team president Cam Neely.

“Tyler’s just gotta get pucks to the net, get himself to the net and use his speed and things will be fine for him,” Neely said Tuesday on Felger and Massarotti. “I think it’s easy to second-guess yourself about decisions that you’ve made, and I certainly don’t want him to concern himself too much with that. Because there’s not much he can do about it.”

And if Seguin needs something else to think about, he can look back to last year, when he had a similarly slow start. He began the year with three goals and seven assists in the Bruins’ first 11 games of the season, but then his goals came in bunches. He scored in four straight games, netting seven goals in just eight days. He never did repeat such a stretch for the rest of the year, but he was nevertheless able to snap out of his slow start, so there’s reason to believe he can do it again.

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