When Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara was asked what was different heading into this year’s playoffs than last year’s, the captain’s response was obvious: He and most of the rest of his teammates weren’t proud owners of Stanley Cup rings yet.
|Tyler Seguin's plus-34 trailed only teammate Patrice Bergeron (plus-36) for the league lead. (Getty)|
Of course, not much has changed for Chara from an individual standpoint, as he’ll still be counted upon to log heavy minutes and provide Norris Trophy-caliber play. But ask Tyler Seguin that same question and you’ll get a far more interesting answer.
After skating in Boston’s regular season finale against the Devils last year, the then-19-year-old winger waited precisely 34 days to return to action. For the entirety of the first two playoff rounds, Seguin – following an unspectacular rookie season – was Claude Julien’s healthy scratch.
“What was going through my head last year was just if I was going to be playing and how I could contribute if I was going to be in that night,” said Seguin. “So, it’s a lot different this year and I definitely like it better with the more I can contribute on the ice this year.”
If his increased contributions are any indication, the budding star may be in for a monstrous playoff run. Seguin jumped from 22 points as a rookie to 67 in his sophomore season in the NHL.
“He’s grown and matured a lot this year and -- I’ve said it before -- he still has a lot of growth in him to become an even more potent and better player and that speaks volumes for him because he did lead our team in scoring this year,” coach Claude Julien said. “We see him as a real high-end skilled player down the road. There’s still a lot to come out of Tyler.”
Seguin’s rise in production, of course, will greatly raise expectations of the young winger. Julien caught lightning in a bottle when the rookie burst onto the playoff scene in the conference finals and torched the Lightning with six points in his first two postseason contests, going way above and beyond what anyone could’ve realistically seen coming.
But now, after a year in which he led the Black and Gold with 67 points, Seguin can’t afford to be anything but a key contributor on a nightly basis.
“Absolutely,” Seguin said when asked if there’s more pressure this time around. “I think I, and a lot of athletes, put enough pressure on themselves as it is, but obviously it’s playoff time – it’s when the real season begins. This is where you get really excited and it’s a lot of fun. These days preparing are pretty long, but I can wait until we start.”
Julien and the Bruins, quite obviously, aren’t the only ones that haven taken notice of Seguin’s second-year success. Keying on the dangerous forward and trying to get him off his game will likely be a big part of the Capitals’ game-plan when they face off against Boston in the opening round.
“Well it will, but I think he knows everybody on this team has his back all he has to do is go out there and compete and be ready to face that kind of challenge,” said Julien. “Like I said, if we want him to become a better player he has to be ready to face those kind of challenges and face them with a positive result. He’s got to work his way through it and we expect him to be able to do that.”