After an anxious 11-game sojourn on the sidelines, Tyler Seguin returned to the Dallas Stars' lineup for Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild. Of course, the introduction of an All-World center into Dallas' offense led directly to a scuffling, 2-1 decision in favor of the home team. A quick glance at how Seguin could be helpful in understanding where the Stars' offense goes from here.
The first thing that jumps out is how quickly coach Lindy Ruff tapped the returning Seguin. Tyler's first shift started a mere 44 seconds into the first period. Ruff wasn't just dabbling either. That same period would see Seguin skate nine other shifts for a total of nearly seven minutes on the ice (6:57 TOI). Project that for an entire game and it's just a shade over his 19:27 per game regular season average.
Those shifts followed a familiar pattern. Seguin saw time with Jamie Benn and played 2:17 on the power play. It was clear that Ruff felt he could do the job, or at the very least, deserved the opportunity to do so.
Given the general tone of Game 1, it felt like a good decision for a coach juggling the need to get an elite asset back up to speed with a need to win the game at hand. Drop Seguin into another 20-2 shooting period, and you have to think the result is a little bit better than 0-0. If that result is better, furthermore, Coach Ruff should have more flexibility around his pivot the rest of the game.
What actually happened was more of a mixed bag. The first period saw Dallas carry the balance of play, but the margins were smaller. A noticeably desperate Wild kept shot totals at a respectable 14-7, and more importantly, prevented Dallas from taking any kind of lead into the break. That trend actually continued. Minnesota outshot Dallas 19-14 across the remaining two periods of play. This stretch also saw Seguin's influence on the game wane. Seguin played 5:39 in the second period and 3:04 in the third.
I think this is where the score-line hurt. At 0-0, with premium chances flying both ways, the risks of working the rest off mid-game begin to outweigh the benefits. This has all the hallmarks of a tight-checking, low-scoring series. A fatigue-induced mistake might not just cost a goal, but possibly a game. There are also in-game matchups to consider. Jason Spezza is straight up wrecking kids right now. Radek Faksa has been a difference maker, Patrick Eaves is contributing, and Cody Eakin was much better. How willing are you to short their minutes right now, with things working, at these margins on a Seguin lottery ticket?
I wonder as well if the sorts of shifts Seguin took in the second period were a factor. Four of the five exceeded a minute in length, as opposed to two of his ten first period shifts. The difference between :46 and 1:40 might seem silly, but keep in mind these are NHL Playoff seconds. The Stars were up two goals for about two minutes. The rest of the time they were hanging on, which is not exactly Seguin's forte.
The Stars will get more from Tyler Seguin as the series progresses, even if they give him a game off to continue to recover. 15:40 is a perfectly fine starting point. Hopefully, the Stars remain in charge and the progression is measured. The next time he plays, he will probably see an expanded role on the so-far moribund power play, and the distribution of his minutes will likely level out a bit. In particular, a Stars lead early will be critical.
The good news is that this is happening now, at 2-0, against the eight seed. Should the Stars progress, they'll enjoy the benefits of a game-ready Tyler Seguin.