Tuukka Rask didn’t have much of a chance.
In Tuesday night’s shootout, Tyler Seguin carried the puck toward the net with speed. With one quick flick, Seguin snapped the puck high blocker on his former teammate. Rask couldn’t raise his blocker rapidly enough to foil the ex-Bruin. It was Seguin at his best, using his slick stick skills to help the Stars claim a 3-2 shootout win.
“That was a good identity win for us,” said Seguin, wearing the No. 91 that is the reverse of his old number. “They’re one of the best teams in the league. They’ve been that for a while, at least when I was there. We found a way.”
Seguin is money in the shootout. He is now 14 for 30 in three-plus seasons.
But it wasn’t Seguin’s shootout performance that pleased his boss. Lindy Ruff was far happier with how Seguin competed on the draw. Seguin won six of nine faceoffs, including all three he took against David Krejci.
Just two days earlier, Seguin had lost 13 of 14 draws against Ottawa. On most of the faceoffs, Seguin hardly competed. He put his blade down, tried to bat the puck away, then chased the play once he lost the draw. After two periods of futility, Seguin was off the draw. Ruff had to send out Jamie Benn to take Seguin’s faceoffs.
Ruff was curious how Seguin would respond against the Bruins. Seguin’s old team has a reputation for intimidation. Seguin fought back.
“Awesome,” Ruff said of Seguin’s faceoff performance. “It’s exactly what you want. He might have been one of the top guys tonight at 60-something percent. Some guys he was having trouble with, Benn stepped in and did a nice job. The other guys, he was able to handle. That’s exactly what I want. I want him to compete. If he’s having a tough time with somebody, get thrown out or come in second. I thought all that was real good. I thought the compete from those guys was awesome.”
It was not an easy game for Seguin. The Bruins, coming off a dud against the Islanders, were itching for a bounceback game. Seguin wanted to rip up his former team and show his ex-bosses they made a mistake.
Seguin, Dallas’s first-line center, wasn’t great. In 22:01 of ice time, Seguin landed two shots. He missed with three other attempts. Seguin was credited with one hit.
But his shootout goal helped fellow ex-Bruin Rich Peverley score the winner.
“This is a great hockey team,” Seguin said of the Bruins. “This is the first time I’ve played against them. There’s not much space out there. They’re always closing in on me. In other games, I get so much more speed when I’m coming through the neutral zone having the puck. Every time I looked up, there was a Black-and-Gold jersey in front of me.”
A one-game snapshot will not determine the questions surrounding Seguin. It is unknown whether Seguin, the second overall pick in 2010, will live up to his pedigree. Tuesday night’s game did not answer if Seguin will be worth his six-year, $34.5 million contract. Neither the Stars nor the Bruins will know for years whether the blockbuster — Loui Eriksson, Reilly Smith, Matt Fraser, and Joe Morrow for Seguin, Peverley, and Ryan Button — will be a steal or a punchline for either club.
Please recall the player the Bruins once traded to claim Seguin’s rights. Phil Kessel left Boston in 2009 in the deal that resulted in Seguin, Dougie Hamilton, and Jared Knight. In 2013, Kessel finally became a game-changing player. This season, Kessel is proving his playoff run was no outlier. He is a competitive, dangerous, elite scoring forward. It took Kessel four years to return to the playoffs and establish himself as one of the NHL’s superstars.
Seguin is five years younger than Kessel. Seguin could follow Kessel’s lead. Seguin is just as fast as his fellow ex-Bruin. Kessel’s release is a touch quicker, but Seguin’s shot is just as heavy and accurate. It could take Seguin just as long to match Kessel’s development curve.
Tuesday night’s game, however, revealed several things. Seguin is coachable. He is willing to accept criticism and improve. Seguin has few peers in the NHL when it comes to speed and shot. He is deadly in the shootout.
And he needs the puck far more often.
The TD Garden crowd booed Seguin when he had the puck. The boos did not last very long.
Seguin centered Benn and Valeri Nichushkin on the No. 1 line. The Bruins countered with Zdeno Chara and Johnny Boychuk. The shutdown pairing is a handful for any team. They didn’t give Seguin and his linemates much space.
But Benn landed two shots and missed with three others. Benn scored the game-opening goal. Benn was on the puck more often than Seguin. When Benn had the puck, he had no intentions of giving it away. Same thing with Alex Chiasson, the former Boston University standout. Chiasson was stronger and more decisive with the puck.
Seguin, in contrast, didn’t have the puck on his stick enough. He didn’t generate regular scoring chances, which is what the Stars expect him to do.
Seguin’s best look took place on a set faceoff play at the end of the second period. With 2.7 seconds remaining in the period, Vernon Fiddler won an offensive-zone draw, pulling the puck back to Seguin off the left-side wall. Seguin snapped a shot that went wide left.
Even when they don’t have the puck, elite players use their hockey sense to find openings. Once they locate a seam, they stake their claim to that real estate and fight anybody who dares to push them out of it. Seguin hasn’t mastered that skill yet.
The 21-year-old had the last laugh. He scored in the shootout and helped the Stars claim a 2-point win.
Seguin can do even more than that. He has the talent to command games. It is up to him to make that happen. It would be a waste of his skill set if he falls short.Fluto Shinzawa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeFluto.