In the midst of bit of a rough stretch to start the month of February, there is one bright spot for the Dallas Stars that had been dim for most of the season.
Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn make up one of the most dynamic and dangerous offensive threats in the league, no matter who completes the line with them. One of the Stars’ biggest needs in the offseason was secondary scoring. A 37 point gap between the duo and the third-highest scorer on the team made it clear last season that the Stars needed offensive depth and a second line that could take the scoring pressure off the top line. Despite a couple of moves aimed to solve that issue, the Stars’ second line hadn’t been able to display that scoring consistency. Sunday night was a different story.
Early Struggles for the Second Line
The summer additions of Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky helped set up a speedy offensive double threat that was expected to supplement Seguin and Benn’s scoring. There was hope that the newly-acquired duo would rekindle their chemistry from their short time together with the Ottawa Senators last season. Whether Valeri Nichushkin, Erik Cole, Patrick Eaves or someone else finished out the line, Spezza and Hemsky could and should provide a dangerous 1-2 punch for Dallas.
Unfortunately, the first half of the season saw inconsistency from the second line. The constant line juggling early on, the inconsistencies of Spezza at both ends of the ice and the horrible start to the season for Hemsky plagued the second line as the Stars struggled out of the gate. Fortunately for the Stars, they have turned things around and had a very productive past four games in spite of the team’s 1-2-1 record in that stretch.
Turning Things Around
While the team’s record doesn’t show it, the Stars have played better overall recently, and the second line is a big reason why. Cole found himself as a relative staple alongside Hemsky and Spezza. He missed a few games recently with an upper body injury after a heavy crash into the boards, but his return has helped reignite the line. The trio has combined for four goals and 10 points in the last four games. Seguin and Benn have combined for one goal and four assists in the same span.
Individually, the three have decent production in terms of season totals, but the key was getting it all together and having the line step up in a big game. It took Hemsky 16 games to register his second point of the season and 21 games to notch his first goal, but he has rebounded. He is on pace to score more goals and register more points this season than he has since 2009. Cole is on pace to smash his best season totals in nearly every category since being traded to Dallas in early 2013. He is third on the team in goals, only trailing Seguin and Benn. Spezza has dipped a bit from his point per game career average, but he still finds himself second on the team in assists and third in points.
The trio’s performance Sunday night was easily one of the strongest showings for Cole, Spezza and Hemsky as a line so far this season. After one of the most debilitating losses of the season the prior night to the Buffalo Sabres, the second line provided six points total and goals from each skater, including the overtime winner from Hemsky.
The Stars are still on the outside the playoff bubble, but more performances from the second line like on Sunday night will go a long way in helping Dallas continue to fight for a playoff spot.
Mohammad received his Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Texas at Arlington with a minor in English.