CHICAGO — Tyler Seguin is 21 years old. He can skate all night and stay up late and bounce back the next day. He might be the poster boy for this closing time, 2013 Stanley Cup Final.
Don’t make any plans for Tuesday or Thursday mornings this week. The Bruins and Blackhawks are coming to Boston and can’t settle things in three regulation periods of hockey.
Powered by Seguin’s best game of the playoffs, the B’s beat the Hawks, 2-1, in overtime late Saturday on a wrist shot from the left circle by Daniel Paille after a pinpoint cross-ice feed from Seguin.
Taking care of business and working overtime. That is the theme song of this Cup Final. And the later it goes, the better Seguin gets. He is Boston’s midnight rambler.
Paille and Seguin were together on the ice late Saturday because Bruins coach Claude Julien needed to shake things up. After an abysmal first period, Julien switched Seguin to a line with Paille and Chris Kelly. The new line wound up scoring both goals and Seguin had his best game of the playoffs.
Of the game-winning goal, Julien said, “obviously a great pass from Tyler. That line came up huge for us tonight. I was confident enough to put them out against their second line.’’
Seguin was taking some heat after the Bruins lost the first game of this series in triple overtime. He led the Bruins with eight shots (two on net), but couldn’t put the puck in the net. He didn’t score a goal again Saturday night, either, but he was a difference-maker.
Seguin is a bit of a hot button in Hockey Boston. He’s good, but not yet great. He was under fire before Game 2 when it was noted he had only one goal in 17 playoff games despite a team-high 62 shots.
Sometimes we give up too early on a player. Remember Chauncey Billups? Celtics coach Rick Pitino grabbed him with the third pick in the entire draft (small consolation for not getting Tim Duncan), then traded Billups three-quarters of the way through his first season.
Sometimes we wait too long on a player. Remember Laurence Maroney? The Patriots used their first-round pick on the running back from Minnesota and waited four years before dumping him. Bill Belchick’s patience with Maroney reminded me of Earl Weaver’s explanation for sticking with aging ace Mike Cuellar. Weaver said, “I gave Cuellar more chances than my first wife.’’
Seguin was all the rage when the Bruins selected him with the second pick in the 2010 draft. Bruins fans hoped he would be “The Next One.’’
He has not been “The Next One.’’ We don’t know exactly what he is. We’re not even certain if he’s a center or a winger.
We have seen the skills. We won’t forget the 2011 championship playoff run when he was a healthy scratch for the first two rounds, then scored two goals and had two assists in a single period of the conference final game against Tampa Bay at TD Garden. Seguin was only 19 that night. We saw him score 29 goals last season.
We are dazzled by the speed and stickhandling. No Bruin can get off a shot faster. But the Bruins needed Seguin to deliver in one of those three overtimes against the Blackhawks on Wednesday and Seguin could not score. When you are playing 112 minutes of hockey in a single evening, you figure the guy with the youngest legs has the best chance of finding the back of the net.
“To me, the only thing he needs to do is to be able to finish,’’ Julien said the day after that game. “If he can finish, it will certainly help his confidence, help our hockey club.’’
Seguin expressed some frustration after Game 1, saying, “I feel like I had a ton of chances last game again. I want to finish, and my team needs me to finish. I’m going to keep focusing on that in Game 2.’’
There was speculation that Seguin might be moved up to the first line if Nathan Horton was unable to play because of his shoulder injury, but Horton was able to start the game, so Seguin started with center Rich Peverley and left wing Kaspars Daugavins.
“When it comes to playoffs, you want to show you can play anywhere,’’ said Seguin. “Whether that’s first line or fourth line, you want to play the role that’s given to you. In the end, I’m just trying to help my team win.’’
“It can be frustrating,’’ he added. “I looked back at the tapes of last game . . . there were a lot of chances. I need to find a way to score on those. There are no excuses left anymore. This is the Stanley Cup Final. You’ve just got to find a way.’’
A change had to be made after the first period Saturday. The Bruins were outscored, 1-0, and outshot, 19-4.
“Maybe we thought the game started at a different time,’’ joked Seguin.
“It was a hard period to coach and a hard period to watch,’’ said Julien.
So he made the switch. And Seguin clicked with Kelly and Paille.
“Claude tries to find different combinations,’’ said Kelly, who scored the Bruins’ first goal. “He has a good feel to try to find chemistry with different guys.’’
The game-winner was a beauty. Adam McQuaid got the puck to Seguin, who fired a cross-ice pass to Paille.
And so the series is coming back to Boston tied, 1-1. And we turn our tired eyes to the 21-year-old kid who can skate after hours every night.