Blair: Kessel living a charmed life while Seguin being reduced to irrelevancy

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Toronto Maple Leaf Phil Kessel (81) shoots the puck to score the Leafs second goal on Bruins goaltender Tuuka Rask (40) during third period of game six NHL eastern conference playoff May 12, 2013. (Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail)

How must it feel to be Tyler Seguin right now? The Boston Bruins forward has pulled a monumental disappearing act and he’ll go into Monday night’s Game 7 in his own building hearing derisive chants of ‘Thank you, Seguin!’ ringing in his ears, courtesy of fans at the Air Canada Centre.

Seguin, of course, has lived a charmed NHL life compared to Phil Kessel. No longer. He has been out-played badly, his line reduced to an irrelevancy in the last two games while Kessel is playing himself into a likely contract extension. Seguin has no goals or assists in six games, with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand combining for one goal and two assists despite 67 shots at James Reimer – a continuation of a late-regular season snooze that saw the line, which scored 44 goals during the season, held scoreless in its final three games. Making matters worse, it was that line on the ice at the end of a long shift for the Toronto Maple Leafs second goal in a 2-1 loss in Game 6. It was scored by Kessel, the guy the Leafs traded a couple of draft picks to get – one of which turned into Seguin.

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Bruins coach, Claude Julien, has already used the word “accountability,” earlier in the series – as in he needed to see it from Seguin’s line - but Sunday he wouldn’t even talk about your line or any particular line for that matter in a terse, impatient postgame news conference. His whole team was Jekyll and Hyde, he said. “I’m not talking about certain lines,” he added. “I’m talking about the whole team.” Game 7 does that to coaches, eh?

Seguin had three shots in Game 6 but misfired miserably on his best chance near the mid-way mark of the first, firing high and wide to the far side. It’s like he’s become Kessel and Kessel’s become him and wasn’t it just a week or so ago that the Toronto media was in an uproar because Kessel stiffed them after a practice, leaving everyone to wonder whether or not it was a manifestation of the mental fragility normally associated with Kessel?

However Monday’s deciding game turns out, the guess here is those days are about gone. In fact, it might be time to remember that Kessel had six goals and five assists in 11 playoff games the season before the Bruins traded him to Toronto, and that in 21 career post-season games Kessel has scored 12 goals and added seven assists and is a plus-10. Not shabby.

No, this time it is Kessel who is living the charmed life – to the point where he slyly took Zdeno Chara’s feet out from underneath him in front of the Bruins bench late in the game, sending the Bruins one-man redwood forest tumbling to the ice. Kessel received bonus points for chipping out the puck on the play, too.

Bergeron said after the game that it was pointless to talk about frustration, let alone feel frustration. “Being frustrated won’t help,” he said. “Being determined will help.”

Bergeron said he thought he and his linemates had a better night in Game 6. He had four shots, but Marchand had just one and turned over the puck twice. What message did he have for his linemates? “Keep plugging away, keep doing little things and keep it simple,” he said. “I thought we had some good looks but, bottom line, we need to put the puck in the net.”

Julien acknowledged in his postgame news conference that the Bruins were “the team that should prevail in everybody’s eyes … but they’ve played well and we haven’t played well enough.” Defenceman Dennis Seidenberg echoed Julien’s sentiment that the Bruins needed to do a better job of managing the puck, since given their dominance in the face-off circle (the Bruins won 67 per-cent of the draws on a night when the Leafs were without Tyler Bozak, and have dominated in the circle all series) they figure to have the majority of possession. “We just have to be hungrier all over the place, I think,” said Seidenberg. “We worked hard, I think. Maybe we need to work a little smarter.”

Goaltender Tuukka Rask said the Bruins spoke before the game about “matching their (the Leafs) desperation,” in Game 6. They no longer need to conjure up a fake sense of desperation: lose tonight and they let Phil Kessel have the last laugh. Who’d have thought that when this series started? Not Tyler Seguin, to be sure.

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