Are Tyler Seguin's Faceoff Troubles Limiting Lindy Ruff's Flexibility?

USA TODAY Sports

Ruff had a clear post-game message for Tyler Seguin where faceoffs are concerned after a 4-3 shootout win Sunday.

Tyler Seguin has been tremendous as a Dallas Star. His 15 points in 14 games has him tied with the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk, John Tavares and Corey Perry- And with less ice time than every single of them.

Yet he has a glaring weakness after moving back to center and it single handedly necessitated changes to the line combinations yesterday (and possibly beyond) as the Stars tried to get a one-goal lead home against the Ottawa Senators.

"Well, I had to go back to putting Benn up there because we were getting killed in the faceoff circle," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said of the late shuffle after the game, "and I didn't find that humorous either because it's tough to go 0-and-13."

He didn't name a player to accompany that stat (which he had top-of-mind, ready to go) and he didn't have to. Tyler Seguin finished the game 1-of-13 and lost 9-of-10 to Kyle Turris, compelling Ruff to reverse what had been a big decision before the game.

Rich Peverley had been included in the Stars' top trio earlier in the year, because of his speed and tenacity and ability to create, sure, but for his prowess on faceoffs. Jamie Benn has not been great in his career but showed improvement in spelling Seguin. Take away both of them, as was the case today, and it was not to the coach's liking.

"The compete on that has to be a lot stronger," Ruff continued, "and scratch your nose on the ice if you have to."

The question then came: Where do you see Tyler having to improve on the draw?

"Gosh, you're gonna have to get lower, you're going to have to get stronger, you're going to have to get kicked out a couple of times. It's a one-on-one compete. It's a form of competing and...get mad. You watch Eakin, and I'll just use this, you watch him go into a faceoff circle and he'll get a foot off the ice. and he's bound and determined and you've got to look like that every time, especially on a night when you're having a tough night."

It should be pointed out that the question Mike Heika posed that kicked off faceoff talk was merely "Did you like the line juggling...?" and Ruff steered it thusly of his own volition. So you'd have to think work will be done there.

The message was loud and clear.

What the means for Tuesday's contest at Boston is a mystery at this point. When it all shook out Sunday afternoon toward the end it looked something like this:

Benn-Seguin-Nichushkin
Whitney-Eakin-Chiasson
Roussel-Fiddler-Peverley
Garbutt-Horcoff-Cole

And it began like this:

Whitney-Seguin-Chiasson
Benn-Eakin-Nichushkin
Roussel-Fiddler-Peverley
Garbutt-Horcoff-Cole

So those bottom two groupings figure to persist for the time being. After Benn and Seguin "auditioned" right wingers against Colorado (Cole, Nichushkin, Peverley...) it seems anything is possible. The only intact line from start to finish has been the Eakin trio, finally broken up at the onset yesterday, but back together by the end.

Is it really the first or fourth line for Cole? Does Nichushkin finally breaking through make him a candidate to actually start on a line with Benn and Seguin? Can you sacrifice what you think you might have on that third line in order to send Peverley up with Seguin, making the split from Benn possible on the faceoff circle?

There are a lot of moving parts there, but regardless of all the shifting the last two games they do seem to be making baby-steps in the right direction, and it's still the defense-to-offense transitions and passes giving Stars fans all of the heartburn, and these rearrangements will not affect that appreciably one way or the other.

It's all part of the process- Of finding out what they can and cannot do. One only hopes that winning face-offs is not irrevocably on Seguin's "cannot do" list, because it's holding them back right now on flexibility and his coach was not shy to express it.

The good news is that the juggling and experimenting continues in a stretch where points are being gained more often that not.

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