Through 17 games this season, Tyler Seguin has just three goals. - Nick Laham
Thursday night came and went with yet another hard-fought two points for the Bruins. The Black and Gold knocked off Ottawa, 2-1, in overtime at the TD Garden after Patrice Bergeron tipped a shot by Robin Lehner. The goalie made his lone mistake of the evening -- pushing the puck into his own net after it rested on the goal line for an estimated eternity -- to hand the extra point to the Bruins.
The story ended up as the usual "Bruins just know how to win these games." People talked about the Bruins' mental toughness and defensive excellence. They praised goaltender Tuukka Rask for yet another fantastic display in his first season as the unquestioned No. 1. Rask certainly deserves the plaudits. He made 30 saves on 31 shots last night, and only a moment of confusion between David Krejci and Zdeno Chara ended a likely shutout.
So, it's a positive that the Bruins found a way win on Thursday. They're 13-2-2. Only the Montreal Canadiens have more points than the Bruins, and everyone's favorite team from Canada has played three more games. It's been a pretty good start. The most impressive side of these first six weeks of the season has been the Bruins winning with relatively unproductive starts from a few key players, namely future talisman Tyler Seguin.
The third-year forward hasn't played poorly by any means. Through 17 games, he has three goals, nine assists and a team-high plus-13 rating. He's looked stronger than ever in parts of the rink he dared not go two seasons ago as a rookie. He wins battles in the corners and presents a nearly impossible task for defenseman when dancing along the half-wall. At this point, though, the goals just haven't come. It's nice when scorers can still make a difference in a game without shaking the net. The Bruins need some goals, though, and it's No. 19 charge to make that happen.
Watching Thursday's game, it was clear that the Bruins needed a difference maker. The Senators are a fine NHL team. They played a good road game in Boston, and they certainly deserved the point they earned by getting to overtime. Seguin's job is to take that point away. The dramatic victory was certainly a positive, and Seguin was hardly anonymous. He played nearly 16 minutes, registered three shots on goal and looked a threat every time he touched the puck. There were, as there rarely have been this season, no goals from Seguin, though.
Scorers experience droughts. Seguin's hardly the only high-end forward in the league off to a rough start this season. Phil Kessel's early-season slump was aggressively documented by the Toronto media. Rick Nash has just four goals to this point as well. These are elite NHL scorers. Seguin received a contract extension last summer that suggested he was one of those players.
Talking about becoming a multi-dimensional player is one thing. But Seguin's primary charge in Boston will always be the Filling the Net with Goals dimension. They need him to do that. The opportunities were there on Thursday, as they have been almost every game this season. Hockey cliches to describe Seguin's current situation are plentiful. He's snakebitten, they'll say. He just can't buy a goal, they'll quip.
And none of it will be an excuse.
Seguin will come out of this at some point. Rotten luck plays a role in his lack of production to an extent. Seguin's shooting percentage a season ago was an even 12 percent. Through 17 games this year, he's at 5.9 percent. That should correct itself as the season progresses, especially since Seguin isn't really doing anything wrong. The longer it takes, though, the more strain it puts on Seguin mentally and his teammates on the ice.
Closer games mean more ice time for Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. They mean more two-center shifts from Claude Julien. They mean games that should be two- or three-goal wins become overtime games decided by a goaltender clumsily nudging the puck over his goal line with fewer than 90 seconds left in the game.
Like Thursday night in Boston did. When Tyler Seguin failed to make a difference when his team desperately needed him to.