BOSTON – I’ve been to plenty of bar mitzvah’s in my life, but I’ve never seen anyone go from being a boy to a man in one night as quickly and as impressively as Tyler Seguin tonight.
The rookie showed the type of chutzpah no one – not even the most ardent “Seguinista” – could imagine he had in scoring two goals and adding two assists in the Bruins’ wild 6-5 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final tonight at TD Garden.
With the win, the Bruins tied the series at one game apiece.
They also witnessed the emergence of a hockey star in the making in the No. 19 sweater where a wet-nosed boy with little chance of making an impact this spring on the game’s biggest stage once resided.
As with any bar mitzvah, Seguin had to make a speech after.
“Whenever I face adversity, I always try to take a negative and turn it into a positive,” said the wise 19-year-old about his time watching from the press box for Boston’s first 11 postseason games. “Watching the first two rounds, I could still learn a lot and see the game from up top. So whenever I get the opportunity again, whether it’s getting cut in World Juniors [in the winter ’09-10] and going back to OHL or being the press box and coming back to the team, I want to take advantage of every opportunity.”
Throughout the regular season, Seguin circled the rink the way a pimple-face teenager tiptoes around the perimeter of the bar mitzvah dance floor because he’s too shy to ask a girl to dance. He treated the puck like a burning-hot latke he couldn’t keep on his stick for more than a second. Those days are over.
The girls were already lining up to ask him to dance, among other things, but now they’re ready to perch him up on a chair and dance a Hora around him. He’s the toast of the town, whether you drink Manishewitz or something more appropriate for his age (iced tea or lemonade for the under-aged superstar-in-the-making).
Seguin’s moves on his way to his four-point night made everyone kvell. He blew by two defenders and roofed a backhander for his first goal. Then he wristed a laser over the glove side on a 2-on-1 for his second goal. His first assist was the result of another wrister that Dwayne Roloson stopped before Michael Ryder buried the rebound. And he capped his performance with a pass to a streaking Chris Kelly, whose shot turned into another rebound goal for Ryder.
Instead of checks from his friends and relatives, Seguin received power-play ice time from head coach Claude Julien and a chant of “Ty-ler Se-guin” from the 17,565 that packed the TD Garden. He also received praise from his coach and teammates.
The eldest statesman on the Bruins Mark Recchi said the kiddish:
“Well it’s pretty good sitting for a long stretch of time and then coming in and having the impact he had is pretty great,” said the future Hall-of-Famer, who didn’t have a challah to cut. “It’s neat to see, we’re all happy for him. He’s worked hard and like I said, he’s learned a lot this year and he has grown and he’s grown as a person and a player. He came out and he worked hard and he competed. And he worked hard because he competed and that’s a great thing, so it’s great to see, he’s a good kid.”
Added head coach Claude Julien: “Yeah he was extremely good tonight, there’s no doubt about that, one of our best players out there. And he used his speed very well tonight. He challenged their Ds with it, did a great job. And it was nice to see him respond that way. He’s competed extremely well and he’s been an excited individual waiting for his opportunity, and he’s certainly making the best of it.”
Seguin has shown hints of maturity off the ice all year with his positive statements and team-first comments even when times were toughest. On the ice, though, he was still a boy among men and that cause the coach to keep him in an apprentices role.
In addition to extra work on the ice with the coaching staff, Seguin also took lessons from Boston’s veterans the way a boy might learn his haftara from the rabbi. The sage words kept him going.
“There were a few times where guys who do have experience, like Recchi, and I remember a specific time, Shawn Thornton came up to me. It was the beginning of the second round and he just came up to and said, ‘Look, kid, If we’re going to the Cup, you’re going to get an opportunity to play, just because injuries are part of the game. Have fun with it. Enjoy the ride. Take it all in and use it as a learning experience,’” recalled Seguin. “So I looked at [watching from] up top as an opportunity as well. It was tough watching, but I tried to take it as an opportunity and when I got the chance to come in, I just wanted to seize it.”
Seize it he did. Tyler Seguin is now a man. Mavel tov and siman tov to him and the Bruins. They can now dress 12 men at forward from here on out. And it might not be long until Seguin is The Man.