Tyler Seguin burst onto the scene in his first career playoff game, scoring his team's first goal (and his first career postseason score) at 15:59 of the first period, cutting the Boston Bruins' deficit to two goals (3-1) against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday night at TD Garden.
Boston went on to lose the game, 5-2, but through no fault of Seguin, who finished with a goal, an assist and two hits during Saturday's loss.
"I do," Seguin said when asked if he feels more confident going forward. "Even going into the third, I just felt a lot better than I did in the first. Just getting back the few strides and playoff tempo under my belt, I felt great going in the second and third periods, so yeah." (via NESN)
Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien praised Seguin following the game, crediting the young forward for his energy and solid play.
"He had a good game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said. "I thought when he had his chance, he took advantage of it and scored, and obviously he had a lot of energy tonight and excitement in his game, so he was a good player for us." (via NESN)
Seguin, the No. 2 overall pick of the Bruins in this year's draft, clearly proved that he can handle himself on the ice in a playoff game, which begs the question: why on earth hasn't Julien played Seguin in the 2011 playoffs?
Sure, Julien played Seguin for the first time on Saturday night, but only because Patrice Bergeron (concussion) was unable to play. Had Bergeron been healthy and ready to go, I'm not sure fans would have had the chance to see Seguin at all this postseason.
For some reason, Julien never believed that Seguin could help this team compete in the playoffs. Well, you better think again, Claude. Not only did Seguin hold his own weight, he gave the team hope for the remainder of the game with the simple flick of a wrist.
Julien and company chose Seguin with the second overall pick in the draft, meaning that this kid clearly had some talent, and boy, does he ever. That being the case, why in the world would you keep him off the ice when your team is chasing its first Stanley Cup since the 1971-72 season?
In what other sport (besides baseball) is it even remotely acceptable to hold out your second overall pick, especially in the playoffs?
The Denver Nuggets certainly didn't hold Carmelo Anthony out of the playoffs the first time they reached the postseason. You didn't see the Detroit Lions holding out Ndamukong Suh at all last season, did you?
It's one thing if Julien was keeping a late first round or second round pick out of the lineup if they weren't ready. Tossing a player who isn't ready into the fire (a.k.a. the conference finals) could severely damage a players' psyche.
Yet we aren't talking about the No. 30 overall pick, we're talking about the second pick.
It's not like Seguin didn't contribute in the regular season, either. In 74 games, Seguin had 11 goals and 11 assists for 22 points. Are those great numbers? No. But are they awful numbers that are hurting the team and its production? Absolutely not.
Last time I checked, Shawn Thornton (10 G, 10 A) and Daniel Paille (6 G, 7 A) also saw plenty of ice time this postseason, and their numbers weren't as good as Seguins'.
We've established that Seguin is talented and is clearly NHL-ready, and we've known that for quite some time now. Yet for whatever reason, Julien kept holding him back, and by extension, holding the team back.
The more you play the competitive Seguin, the better off he is for it. As a young player, the more experience you can get, the better off you'll be.
Take the 2006-07 Boston Celtics, who finished the season with a record of 24-58. After suffering many injuries, head coach Doc Rivers (who is actually a good coach - unlike Julien), used the opportunity to get his young guys into the games more often, which served them very well in the long run.
Some of those youngsters happened to be Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes and Tony Allen, all of which have blossomed into solid (and in Jefferson's case - very solid) basketball players, and that extra experience certainly helped.
Now, playing younger players in favor of veterans can often get a coach fired, but it's not like Julien would have been canned for playing the future face of the franchise when it matters most.
Was Julien trying to save and protect Seguin for the future? It's certainly possible, but that's a tactic used by teams who won't even be sniffing the Stanley Cup for at least ten years. That's just not the case for Boston.
The Bruins have an opportunity to win, and win now. Those opportunities don't last for long in professional sports, just ask this year's San Antonio Spurs.
Julien has an obligation to put forth the best players who can help this team win right now, with the Bruins a mere eight wins away from a Stanley Cup.
The time to play Seguin is now, and while he's finally getting his chance to shine, he should have been playing all along.