Sure, like the rest of the hockey world, the Bruins knew Tyler Seguin had the ability to be something special someday. They just never imagined that day would come so quickly, with Seguin just 19 years old and playing only his second NHL playoff game after a layoff of more than a month.
But given a chance to get back into the lineup with Patrice Bergeron sidelined by a concussion, Seguin has come through with so much more than the Bruins even dared dream.
"No, I mean it's surprising that he really steps up like that," defensemen Dennis Seidenberg said when asked if he foresaw Seguin having this kind of impact this quickly. "It's crazy. I mean he comes in, he delivers and he played great. I mean he played good defensively and offensively, he was really explosive and created chances every time he was on the ice."
How crazy? Seguin, who managed just one goal and two points in his final 20 regular-season games, now has 3-3-6 totals in two postseason games. Seguin struck for two goals and two assists to pace the Bruins resurgent attack, as Boston held off Tampa Bay 6-5 in Game 2 Tuesday night at the Garden. With the win, the Bruins have evened the Eastern Conference Final at a game apiece as the series heads to Tampa for Game 3 on Thursday.
More importantly, they may have found a new star arriving on the scene ahead of schedule.
"Well obviously he was fantastic tonight," said Chris Kelly, who picked up an assist while centering Segin on a line with Michael Ryder. "That first goal he scored shows how quick he is. And he had a solid game not only offensively, but I thought he did a lot of the little things well tonight defensively."
Seguin struck just 48 seconds into the second period, pulling Boston even at 2-2 after the Lightning shocked the Bruins with a goal 13 seconds into the first period and another with 6.5 seconds left in the opening frame for a 2-1 lead. Seguin used his speed to burst through the neutral zone, split the defense and swooped in on Tampa goalie Dwayne Roloson, beating him with a backhander.
"It's definitely tough watching from above," Seguin said. "I try to take everything in and learn as much as I can, but it's hard sitting there and not being able to help the boys. I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity I got."
With Seguin's breakthrough performance in these last two games, it's easy to second-guess the decision to keep him in the press box for the first two rounds. But that experience and what he learned from watching the game from up top and being around the team in a postseason run even without playing contributed to getting him ready for his chance in this series.
"It's never a bad thing for a young kid [to sit out]," veteran forward Mark Recchi said. "He's 19 years old. The whole year was a learning process for him. That two rounds was an experience. That's what depth is good for. When you lose a guy like Bergy and he can come in, and two impact games like he has is great to see. It's just another weapon to add to what we have."
Seguin agreed that he benefited from the time spent waiting for his chance.
"I think it's just the learning curve," Seguin said. "It's been a whole learning curve all year. As the year went on, I've felt more confident and more poised. In big games, I always want to step up. Tonight I had some lucky bounces, but I was trying to take advantage of all the opportunities and they were going in tonight."
Seguin was a hit with his teammates with his performance, and he certainly was popular with the sold-out Garden crowd, which chanted his name and exploded in applause when he got his first power-play shift in the second period, then again when he picked up an assist seconds later.
"I heard it when they put him on the power play for the first time," Recchi said of the crowd reaction. "I heard everybody get pretty excited and we scored a goal right away, so it was good. It's great to see for the kid. He's worked hard. It was really a building year for him, learning how to compete and be a pro. He's competing very hard right now. He's come a long way and he's wanted to get better and he's getting rewarded for that now."
Seguin, in turn, rewarded the faith Bruins coach Claude Julien finally showed in him by inserting him in the lineup these last two games and increasing his ice time to 13:31 (1:49 on the power play) on Tuesday.
"He was extremely good tonight, there's no doubt about that," Julien said. "He was one of our best players out there. He used his speed very well. He challenged their D's with it and did a great job. 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."