Boston Bruins winger Tyler Seguin hasn't made the kind of impact offensively that fans expected of him through the first quarter of the 2013 NHL season, but with four points in his last five games, the young star is headed in the right direction.
Playing in Europe during the lockout on a bigger rink and against weaker competition may have created some bad habits in Seguin's game, especially since offense is prioritized far more than defense and physical play in many overseas leagues.
He started the season with just one goal (empty-net) in his first eight games and didn't score a "real goal" until the Bruins' 2-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on February 6.
The analysis of Seguin's struggles began early in the season, and the usual criticisms that he's unwilling to go into the corners, doesn't compete at a high enough level and lacks defensive responsibility were topics for sports radio and local media to waste time debating.
Seguin's defense has actually been one of the stronger parts of his game this season. He's playing more physically in his own zone, finishing his checks and breaking up plays by back-checking. He also has six takeaways, nine hits and leads the team with a plus/minus rating of nine.
His defensive effort in Sunday's 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets was fantastic. Late in the first period, he sprinted toward the defensive zone and was able to get his stick on the ice to deflect a pass, that if completed successfully, would have allowed Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian to have a quality shot on Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The entire game was an example of the tremendous progress Seguin has made defensively since making his NHL debut in the fall of 2010.
The hope for the Bruins is that Seguin's improved defensive play will create turnovers that will lead to quality scoring chances on odd-man rushes at the other end of the ice.
From an offensive standpoint, Seguin has steadily improved throughout the season. With eight points (three goals, five assists) in 13 games, Seguin is not too far behind his scoring pace from last season when led the Bruins with 29 goals and 67 points in 81 games.
One impressive part of his play this season is that he's going to the net more often, and his hard work is being rewarded. Seguin's last two goals (videos below) happened because of his willingness to skate into the heart of the defense and battle for pucks to score dirty goals.
Even though the Bruins' power play has been abysmal this season (28th in the NHL), Seguin has done a nice job of creating chances with the man advantage with his ability to make pinpoint passes and his willingness to put pucks on net. He leads the team with three power-play points (one goal, two assists) and ranks fourth with 2:57 of power-play time per game.
It's also encouraging to see Seguin being more aggressive in the attacking zone this season. He's averaging more shots (3.07) and time on ice (17:30) per game this season compared to last year, so it's only a matter of time before the goals and assists start piling up more consistently.
The young forward has also been phenomenal in shootouts this season with two goals in three attempts, which has helped the Bruins take two important points away from their opponents thus far.
Seguin's inability to match his goal-scoring output from the start of last season (eight goals in his first 13 games of 2011-12) shouldn't be a concern for the Bruins, because he is taking important steps in his development as a complete two-way player. He's finding ways to impact games despite his scoring struggles, which is the sign of a great player.
Only Brad Marchand has scored more than four goals for the Bruins this season, so it's not like Seguin is the only player on the roster failing to light the lamp on a regular basis.
Seguin hasn't lived up to expectations this season, but he's been competing at a high level and he isn't letting his struggles prevent him from being aggressive offensively or responsible at the defensive end of the ice.
There's absolutely no reason for fans to be concerned about his performance through the first quarter of the season, especially with the Bruins having a 9-2-2 after 13 games.
Nicholas Goss is an NHL Lead Writer at Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter. He was also a credentialed reporter at the 2011 Stanley Cup Final and 2012 NHL playoffs in Boston.