By Wayne Whittaker, Boston Bruins Correspondent
Coming into the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal Series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Boston Bruins, the spotlight was shining most brightly on two players in particular: Phil Kessel and Tyler Seguin.
Forever linked by the 2009 trade which sent Kessel to Toronto for three draft picks (Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight, and Dougie Hamilton), the two forwards can’t seem to escape each other’s shadow.
This being the first time Kessel and Seguin have met in the post-season, it’s natural that there would be some interest in seeing how the offensive stars would perform.
We’re now three games in, and so far it’s all Kessel. His two goals account for just under 1/3 of the Maple Leafs offensive output in the series. And while Boston has played him well, Kessel demands the Bruins best effort each and every time he takes the ice.
The story has been different for Seguin.
Entering Game Four, Seguin has been kept off the scoresheet completely. Despite leading Boston in shots (17), the speedy winger has yet to find the back of the net. This sudden lack of success can be partially attributed to his linemates sub-par performances as of late.
The line of Seguin, Patrice Bergeron, and Brad Marchand has carried the offensive torch for much of two seasons in Boston, but has been unable to find its rhythm against Toronto. Unbelievably, the trio has just one point (a Marchand assist) now 180 minutes into the best-of-seven series.
These struggles become amplified when compared to the other-worldly production from the Bruins first line of David Krejci, Milan Lucic, and Nathan Horton (combined 5G, 12A, 17 points in three games).
After seeing how the Bruins have succeeded in Games One and Three of the series, one can only imagine how good this team could be if the top two lines could click simultaneously.
So what has the second line been up to?
Patrice Bergeron’s two-way presence continues to show why he’s one of the best players in the National Hockey League. Brad Marchand has been very Brad Marchandy, getting under the skin of Toronto players (notably, Kessel). Seguin has represented an offensive threat that Toronto has been forced to respect, but he has yet to cash in on any of his opportunities.
Seguin’s predictable entry into the offensive zone has become increasingly frustrating to watch. His patented “lets see if I can split the D like that one time against Tampa” toe-drag move is often broken up. At best it delays Boston’s entry and at worst, turns the puck over.
This is a slump. Seguin will work through it, as he has in the past, and the goals will follow. Now in his third post-season, Tyler Seguin should be one of Boston’s best weapons with his combination of incredible speed, quick release, and offensive vision. And with his team just two wins away from the Conference Semi-Finals, now would be a great time for the 21 year-old to breakthrough and silence his critics.