Was earlier Seguin benching a mistake?

BY foxsports • May 18, 2011

Often, especially in Boston, it seems as though a wave of positivity must be accompanied by at least a little bit of negativity. On Tuesday night, the former came in the form of Tyler Seguin, while the latter came in criticism of Claude Julien.

Of course, that's not to say that a large majority of fans spent the night fixated on the coach for keeping his talented 19-year-old in the press box for the first two rounds of the postseason, because they didn't. It's also not to say that it would have been a bad idea to let the kid play from time to time. It's a valid point.

Still, despite the four-point outburst in the second period Tuesday night, it's too simple a statement to claim that had Julien been playing Seguin all along, the kid would have produced at this pace. He wouldn't have. We know that because he didn't.

From Feb.22-April 10, he didn't. He had one goal, no assists and a minus-5 rating in 19 games. You know this. Maybe he ran out of gas or lost some focus or was simply going through a standard rookie learning phase, but when the playoffs began, Julien really had no choice. The stakes were too high to risk putting Seguin on the ice so that he could learn on the fly.

So Julien did what he had to. Did he know that he was potentially bottling up a kid with more scoring ability than anyone else on the roster? Of course he did. To try to insinuate the Julien was not keen to this fact would be foolish. There just wasn't any spot for him to play.

You can rule out the fourth line, because that would simply be a waste of Seguin's skills. You can go ahead and block out the top two lines as well, as the Milan Lucic-David Krejci-Nathan Horton line and Brad Marchand-Patrice Bergeron-Mark Recchi line have been the most consistent and reliable units for months.

That leaves Chris Kelly, Michael Ryder and Rich Peverley. Kelly had three goals and three assists against Montreal. Ryder had a pair of goals and an assist in Game 4 against Montreal, including the game-winning goal in overtime. Peverley had a goal and four assists agaisnt Montreal. They were all crucial to that series win, and you can't fault Julien for sticking with those guys -- even after the team fell behind 2-0 in the series.

So when Seguin scored early in the second period Tuesday night to tie the game 2-2, and when he scored a few minutes later to make it 4-2, it should have been a moment of celebration. And it was, for the most part, except for the immediate Twitter barbs lobbed at Julien from fans and media members alike.

Those jokes and insults (and in some cases, fits of rage) overlooked a lot, including the ever-so-slight possibility that Seguin might have learned a lot while watching the game from the press box. True, he might not have needed a full month of studying, but a chance to step back and learn, while still participating in warmups to get a feel for the playoff intensity, is one that does have value.

There's also the possibility that Seguin was motivated by the extended benching. It probably wasn't the Phil Kessel "I'm better than everyone and I'll show you" mind-set that we saw a few years ago, but it was likely in line with the thought process of great athletes. They may understand why they're being benched, and they may not be holding a grudge against the coach for being benched, but they never want to be benched. Being told for more than a month that he wouldn't be playing NHL hockey likely drove the kid mad, and it's shown in his six points in 23 minutes on the ice.

Maybe instead of taking a shot at Claude, it's time to give him at least some credit for handling the situation the way he did.

What happened Tuesday night was great. If Seguin's career turns out as well as we all think it will, then that brilliant performance in Game 2 will go down as his official arrival in the game. At the very least, he's earned his spot on this team for the rest of the playoffs, and if he keeps playing like he has, that will almost certainly last at least a couple of more weeks.

Shawn Thornton can take a seat, and either Kelly or Peverley, who have both cooled considerably since that Montreal series, can slide down and contribute on the fourth line. Seguin will play, and he'll get his opportunities, even when Patrice Bergeron returns to the ice.

But in the case of Seguin's scoring, it's best to let a positive be a positive. Julien made a lineup decision, and his team made it to the conference finals with that lineup. When Seguin was called upon, he was ready. It worked out. The Bruins are moving on to Game 3, and it's time for everybody else to join them.



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