James van Riemsdyk has seven goals in nine playoff games this season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
A number of things are already going well for the Boston Bruins this spring. Actually, everything except Tomas Kaberle is going well for the B’s.
Ironically, the one thing that’s working hardest against Boston in its second round series with the Flyers might also, in a roundabout way, still be working in its favor.
At this juncture of the playoffs, it’s impossible to watch Philly without noticing the impact James van Riemsdyk is having. The second year power forward, who turned 22 on Wednesday, is easily the Flyers’ most dangerous player right now, even ahead of big-game Briere and playoff scoring leader Claude Giroux.
The question for Boston - besides, “How do we stop this guy?” - has to be, “How close is Tyler Seguin watching this guy?”
Seguin and van Riemsdyk will never be the same type of player, but they do share very similar circumstances. Both were drafted second overall, JVR in 2007, Seguin in 2010. After spending two college seasons at New Hampshire, van Riemsdyk joined the Flyers for his first NHL season in 2009-10. Seguin jumped directly to the big show this season, but, like JVR, struggled to adapt. In fact, van Riemsdyk’s troubles spilled over to this year, when he was a healthy scratch in four consecutive November games.
Now, it’s rare for him to go consecutive games without scoring a goal.
Seguin, still only 19, hasn’t skated for the Bruins in the playoffs and while van Riemsdyk did suit up for most of Philly’s games last year, he didn’t see a ton of ice, scored only three goals and was a scratch for Games 2 and 3 of the final.
If you’re a Bruins fan, you’ve got to be hoping Seguin is soaking in what JVR is doing and embracing the simple lesson that things don’t come easy at the NHL level and, regardless of how talented you are, there’s typically some tough times en route to realizing your potential.
The questions about van Riemsdyk centered around the fact that, despite his 6-foot-3 frame, maybe he wasn’t aggressive enough to make a real impact on NHL games. The issue, from an outside perspective, was JVR getting the confidence required to walk onto the ice armed with the simple, yet crucial “I belong and I can do this” realization. That assertive attitude is something Seguin has yet to demonstrate.
Whether he gets a chance to discover it during these playoffs remains to be seen. Nobody is coming out of the forward group the way things are going for the B’s right now, but injuries can strike at any time and my suspicion is Boston will be playing a lot more hockey this spring – as in, there is a great chance the Bruins will be in the Cup final – so Seguin should keep those skates sharp.
In the meantime, he can make the most of his press box experience by witnessing the success of a fellow youngster who was recently in a situation comparable to his and allow that to imbue him with the belief he can follow suit somewhere down the road.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.