No one is surprised, necessarily, that the Bruins advanced to their second Stanley Cup final in the last three seasons. The shock, the raised eyebrows and the telling looks are certainly there, though. Not just because the Bruins advanced with the frantic third-period comeback against Toronto and a sweep of The Mighty Mighty Penguins, but because Tyler Seguin has scored exactly one goal in these playoffs. One.
One goal in 16 games for the former No. 2 overall pick. One goal in 16 games for the Bruins' leading goal-scorer over the past two years. One goal for the 21-year-old forward graced as the Real Deal after a steady progression in his first three seasons. Seguin was second on the team in goal-scoring this season with 16 goals in 48 games. Still not exactly the type of numbers expected from the third-year player after signing a six-year, $34.5 million extension last summer.
Despite the club's success these last few weeks, Seguin's status as a passenger on this ride through the Eastern Conference forced some of the city's blowhards to question his future on Causeway Street.
It's easy to criticize Seguin for things it's impossible to prove. They say he's not playing hard and that he doesn't have any poise. Grit and determination and toughness are all prominent components of the pseudo-sentences they spout off as well. It even easier to make these arguments with Seguin's 1-3--4 line in these first 16 games of the playoffs. But to suggest jettisoning him away at the age of 21 after a few tough playoff series is ludicrous.
The natural comparison to Phil Kessel fits to an extent, especially now that the Bruins have some salary cap issues to address thanks to Uncle Jeremy's Lockout. As much as Bruins fans want to believe Chiarelli dumped Kessel because he refused to be a three-zone player, they wanted to keep him. They made an offer they thought acceptable, but Kessel knew more money waited elsewhere. So he held out, forced a trade and he'll never hear the end of it in Boston.
Seguin didn't do any of that. He signed an extension before his entry-level contract expired because he wanted to play here and the money was right. Moreover, the Bruins locked him and the rest of their young corps up to avoid situations similar to the Kessel saga. The real problem deals on the Bruins' books at the moment are multi-year, multi-million-dollar extensions given to role players.
Seguin's woes during this run to the Cup final are hard to figure. He scored his only goal in Game 4 of the semifinals against the Rangers. The Bruins lost, 4-3, in overtime before closing the deal in Game 5 and advancing to the conference's final. Again, Seguin was a relative non-factor in the Bruins' eventual series sweep. He was there, though, and it's impossible to overlook some of his positive contributions during this run.
Going back to the Toronto series, he hit a crossbar on a breakaway in Game 1. Later on, James Reimer made a spectacular save on Seguin, closing the five-hole just long enough kill a play. Like most goal-scorers, Seguin's revealed a bit of streakiness in his career. If either of those pucks ends up in the net way back on May 1, the last 14 games may've gone a little differently for the winger.
All in all, Seguin hasn't been particularly great in these playoffs, but it's unfair to say he's been outright poor. He is, of course, a fairly one-dimensional player at this point in his career. It's OK to be good at just one thing if that thing happens to be scoring a lot of goals. But, when the goals don't come, the criticism rightfully starts rolling in from every possible direction. Defensively, he hasn't been a liability for the most part. And Patrice Bergeron's overtime winner in Game 7 against the Maple Leafs doesn't come if Seguin doesn't keep the play alive with that grit and determination he'll never receive credit for.
Wednesday night, Seguin will play in his second Stanley Cup final in three seasons in the National Hockey League. After the suffocating dispatch of the Penguins last round, the Bruins are, if only slightly, something of a favorite over the Blackhawks. It's still difficult to believe they've reached this point without a particularly large contribution from No. 19.
Through three rounds, again, Seguin has scored just once and picked up three assists. He's getting the chances for some goals, but the pucks just haven't fallen for him. With 54 shots, Seguin is tops on the Bruins' roster, but his 1.9 shooting percentage makes him dead last among those players who have actually scored a goal in the postseason.
It's impossible to say if Seguin will influence these finals the way he should. Other heroes have emerged and guided the Bruins to within four wins of another championship. The final test awaits. The Bruins have proved they can win without anything substantial from Seguin. Some help from the gifted sniper would certainly help.