By Matt Dolloff (@mattdolloff)
BOSTON (CBS) — It’s almost time for the annual Reminder Of How Bad The Tyler Seguin Trade Was For The Bruins (ROHBTTSTWFTB) game, as the Dallas Stars visit the TD Garden Tuesday night. However negatively you may feel as a Bruins fan about Seguin – that he’s not a team player, that he’s soft, that he’s immature, that he only cares about scoring and can’t play defense – there’s no question that he has become a premier player in the NHL and even if he really is all those things, the return on the trade was sorely lacking.
While the Bruins have turned things around after a ghastly 0-3 start to go 6-0-1 in their past seven games, there’s still the team in Dallas to compare them to post-Seguin trade. And Dallas has started the season red-hot, winning 9 of their first 11 games and sitting atop the Western Conference. They are led by Seguin and Jamie Benn, who have combined for 14 goals and 33 points.
Despite the wealth of high-end scorers, the Stars’ tragic flaw in recent years has been weak play in their own end. But this year they have shown noticeable improvement in that area, currently tied for 14th in goals allowed per game with 2.73, after finishing 26th with 3.13 goals allowed per game last season. The additions of veterans Johnny Oduya and Alex Goligoski, and improvement of second-year blueliner John Klingberg, certainly seem to have helped solidify the Stars’ backend.
So while the Bruins’ chief task in defeating the Stars Tuesday night will be to neutralize Seguin and Benn’s significant scoring threat, the offense will not have it as easily as opponents have had with the Dallas defense in recent years. They should, however, have some familiarity with Oduya and Goligoski from their time playing in New Jersey and Pittsburgh, respectively.
Coach Claude Julien is happy about the Bruins’ recent turnaround, but after Monday’s practice stressed that the Bruins need to worry about more than just one end of the ice when they play Dallas on Tuesday.
“[The Stars] have always been a pretty good offensive team. As you know, they were disappointed in their game without the puck. Their goals against are down this year, they’ve solidified that part of their game a little bit, so I think it’s going to be a good test for us,” said Julien. “I think we’ll need every part of our game against them to be good. As much as we need to be good defensively against a real potent offense, we’ll have to be good offensively too against a team that has improved in [the defensive] area.”
David Krejci, Brad Marchand, and Tuukka Rask all said some variation of the same thing: that the Bruins have improved because they have stuck to their system and settled into their roles, and they need to keep doing that to continue having success.
Before the season started, I wrote about whether Seguin has turned a corner in terms of elevating his maturity and all-around play. A lot of Stars fans were infuriated by my comments, twisting it into me saying I was trying to justify the trade. Not the case: the Bruins lost the trade either way, and I feel they could have found a way to win with Seguin even if he never changed.
But it seems that Seguin is still the same old player in Dallas that he was coming up in Boston, focused almost solely on amassing points and leaving things like defense, physical play, and forechecking in the corners as afterthoughts. The kinds of things you need to add on top of a strong offensive game to be the kind of premier player that helps his team win in the postseason. He has been held to just two assists in 4 games against the Bruins since the trade, but they may have trouble slowing Seguin down with a less talented defensive roster than in previous seasons.
Even if Seguin still can’t play well in his own end or hang physically with a team like the Bruins, he is a player who can kill you on offense if you’re not careful. And with the Stars’ marked improvement on the backend, this game isn’t guaranteed to be a Wild West shootout. The Bruins have been strong in all three zones in recent games, and that trend will have to continue Tuesday.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. His opinions do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Read more from Matt here. Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.