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2014 NHL playoffs: It's time for Dallas Stars' Tyler Seguin to step up

Tyler Seguin of the Dallas Stars After a breakthrough season with Dallas, center Tyler Seguin has cooled in the playoffs. (Andrew Dieb/Icon SMI)

By Allan Muir

One of the most compelling hooks of the Ducks-Stars series that resumes tonight in Dallas (8 p.m. ET, CNBC, TSN) is that it features four of the NHL's top-eight scorers.

So far, three of them have shown up to play.

Ryan Getzlaf has given a good account of himself, just as you'd expect. He's leading the Ducks in scoring with two goals and four points through the first three games. He's established his physical presence at both ends of the ice. And he's doing all that while battling through a gruesome (and surely painful) injury he picked up while blocking a slapper with his face in the frantic final moments Game 1.

Corey Perry? He leads Anaheim in both shots (11) and punches taken (about 400). That last stat is highly unofficial, but it's a good indication of how involved he's been in the series. The Stars' D-men have turned the blue paint in front of goalie Kari Lehtonen into Central Park at midnight, mugging Perry every time he skates by, but he keeps coming back, wallet in hand. He's paying the price.

And then there's Jamie Benn, who is easily the most committed forward in this series. Dallas' captain had never skated in the NHL postseason prior to last Thursday, but he's playing like these are the games he's been waiting for his whole life.

Beast-mode doesn't begin to capture the impact that Benn has had. When the Stars were on their heels in Game 1, he antied up with a bone-jarring open-ice hit that set Getzlaf's teeth on vibrate. In Game 2, he rocked Perry so hard that his Olympic linemate retaliated with a nasty spear to his lower midsection.

Game 2 recap | Box score | Highlights | Takeaways

Even when he was having trouble hitting the net, as he did in Game 2 when he had four shots blocked and sent four other attempts wide, Benn routinely was stationed in the high-rent district directly in front of or beside Anaheim's goal. He knows where to go and what it takes to get there.

But with the series hanging in the balance, Been ramped up the intensity in Game 3. He made the highlights coming out of the penalty box in the final minute of the first to score the only goal Dallas would need in a 3-0 victory, but that effort was almost secondary to the example he set over the course of the game. Benn proved, shift after shift, that there's ice to be had if you're willing to fight for it.

Game 3 recap | Box score | Highlights

Too bad that message hasn't gotten through to Tyler Seguin.

The playoffs are funny. They're a topsy-turvy world where grinders become goal scorers and goal scorers roll up their sleeves and plunge arm-deep into the muck. It's all about making adjustments ... and that's something that Seguin hasn't yet figured out.

That won't come as a surprise to anyone who watched him score once in 22 postseason games for the Bruins last spring. It was that Failure To Appear -- along with his ballooning contract -- that allowed Boston and its fans to unemotionally cut ties with him and his enormous promise last summer.

Granted, his role was different in Boston. There he was a failed top-six forward trying to make a contribution from the third line. The Bruins just needed him to pitch in. They didn't need him to lead.

Expectations are different now. With Dallas, Seguin was the NHL's fourth-leading scorer in his breakthrough season, setting new career highs in goals (37), assists (47) and points (84) while establishing himself as one of the most electrifying talents in the game. It's not about support anymore. For the Stars to succeed, he has to carry his share of the load. And on this team, that's a big share.

Now, it may be that he's just too young to be a go-to guy at this time of year. It seems like he's been around for a while now, but the second-overall pick in 2010 just turned 22. Could be he's not quite ready for prime time.

Maybe Seguin doesn't have that other gear that Benn and Getzlaf and Perry have. Not everybody does.

Or maybe he hasn't quite figured out that this time of year is all about will over skill. Seguin may be the most uniquely gifted player on the ice, but right now that doesn't matter as much as getting to the puck first, winning more than his share of 50/50 battles, and doing whatever it takes to stake out the patch of ice he wants.

Seguin hasn't been bad in this series, but he has been too easy to play against. If he wants to be a top-eight postseason player, that has to change ... starting tonight.
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