EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 18, 2013

Where's the talent?

Seguin has yet to show the ability to elevate offense and team in playoffs

Bill Burt
The Eagle-Tribune

---- — The jobs of the head coach and general manager, as well as three or four second-tier players, have probably been saved. Probably.

Those crazy and historic 15 or so minutes at the end regulation and overtime of Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs have saved a lot of anguish on Causeway Street.

And Thursday night’s opening win over the New York Rangers proved two things: The Rangers aren’t all that and the Bruins still have that fight gene working.

But, above all else, there is one issue that won’t go away, even if the Bruins beat the Rangers and then Penguins:

Tyler Seguin.

Sometimes he’s good. Most of the time he’s decent. And sometimes, like much of Thursday night, he borders on being a liability.

Remember that awful tying goal by the Rangers with 1.3 seconds remaining in the second period? Seguin gave a weak attempt at clearing the puck with 3.0 seconds remaining and the rest was history.

The bigger issue is that Seguin isn’t consistently “very good” or “great,” and a lot of people could still lose their jobs because of it.

Only 21, expectations are probably a little higher than they should be. That’s the age of most college hockey sophomores these days.

But Seguin was selected second overall because he had “franchise” offensive skills. He’s one of the fastest skaters in the league. He has a very good, accurate shot. And he’s a good to very good passer. Sure, he has always struggled on defense, and he is often easily knocked off the puck, but his skill and his potential are off the charts.

We first saw it explode in the conference finals against Tampa Bay two years ago, with three goals and three assists in the first two games of the series.

While Seguin had only one assist over his next 11 playoff tilts, the talent was obviously there.

He did progress with 29 goals and 38 assists while not missing a game as a sophomore, his 16 goals and 16 assists in 48 games this season were good, but in reality not good enough.

The problem is that Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli signed Seguin to a 6-year, $34.5-million extension last September. Next year, when the contract kicks in, he will be the third highest paid Bruin behind Zdeno Chara ($7 million) and Milan Lucic ($6 million).

Chiarelli wasn’t banking on a third line winger, which is what he has become. Seguin has been bullied in the offensive end and he’s having a hard time creating space (see Phil Kessel) and has been weak with the puck, which is the antithesis of most of their top six forwards.

But there Seguin was, right the middle of the Game 7 scrum in overtime, when the puck squirted out to Patrice Bergeron, who finished off the incredible comeback. He was showing signs of answering those criticizing his grit.

“I think just before they scored that goal at the end of the second period you see Tyler going hard to the net on that shot,” said Bruins coach Claude Julien, doing his best to build some confidence in Seguin.

“When you look at the winning goal that Bergy (Bergeron) scored (against Toronto), he was the one that did all of the dirty work in front of the net. So I don’t think right now it’s a matter of (Seguin) not playing hard,” said Julien. “It’s more of a matter that I think people expect and we expect that he should be a little bit more productive. Be able to make a few more plays and be a bit more of a threat.“

While rumblings are that Seguin hasn’t committed himself to the sport when he leaves the rink or when he takes his summer break, that’s a discussion for after the Bruins’ last playoff game. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee that will be Topic A if this one-measly-assist-in eight-playoff-games continues.

Is Seguin ready to lead this franchise? The easy answer is “No, not yet.”

But he has the ability to make things difficult for opposing defenders, just by his presence. If he is producing on the offensive end, a 2-2 overtime flip-of-the-coin could easily turn into a 3-2 or 4-3 win.

A lot is at stake here. Several jobs and a lot of oncoming scrutiny.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.