It was a hat trick on free hat night for captain Jamie Benn. As the camo decorated military appreciation hats covered the ice, an optimistic reality filled the stands at the American Airlines Center. This Dallas Stars team is for real. One fan even called in on The Ticket 1310/96.7’s postgame show going as far as to compare this team to Mike Modano and company’s 1999 Stanley Cup-winning team.
“We played our game and we took it to them,” Benn said in his postgame interview, recapping his sixth career hat trick.
With Tuesday night’s victory over the Carolina Hurricanes in the books, the Stars now have signature wins over them and the St. Louis Blues. The Stars also took five out of six points on their recent road trip across the greater New York area. This team has come to life with optimal timing, right out of the dog days of the season and into the trade deadline.
Aside from just a terrific night, Benn has turned himself into a monster as of late. Over his last five games, the captain has registered six points with four goals and two assists. He’s also had dynamite performances this season against the Winnipeg Jets and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Head coach Rick Bowness had nothing but praise for his captain Tuesday night and highlighted his efforts on the ice.
“When he gets going like that, he’s a force and he’s tough to haul down,” Bowness said at the podium. “Good for him because he’s worked very hard.”
But the Stars’ success hasn’t just been a parade of veteran leadership. Yes, Benn has now established himself as the team’s leading goalscorer. But you would be remiss to not notice some of the rising talent in Dallas etching their name across the statsheet.
Even with Benn’s hat trick making the headlines, it was Denis Gurianov who scored the game-winning goal against the Hurricanes. His power-play one-timer was just another example of the offensive production he’s supplied. Gurianov is the team’s third-highest goalscorer and his speed continues to flip the Stars into the offensive zone almost instantly.
A couple of young speedy Stars who also deserve a lot of attention are Roope Hintz and Miro Heiskanen. Hintz is not only the team’s second-highest goalscorer but his passing has improved through the course of the season. After an incredibly slow start, he has been able to bump his assist total into double digits and has recorded two in his last four games. Meanwhile, Heiskanen is not only making his presence felt on defense, but he is second on the team’s assist totals.
What’s also working for the Stars through the course of this stretch and the season is the consistency of the defense and goaltending. The Dallas-Fort Worth faithful probably couldn’t ask for a better goalie tandem than Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin. Both goalies have winning records and their save percentages are over .920. Their save percentages this season are also better than their career averages. The defense is also allowing the fewest goals in the Western Conference.
Work To Do
With over 25 games remaining in the season, the Stars still have work to be done. The one thing Dallas needs to do to take their next step as a Stanley Cup contender is energize the offense. The solution is fairly clear and can be summarized in a two-part plan.
Number one, the Stars need to get Tyler Seguin scoring goals. It seems like an eternity since the Stars’ All-Star got one past a goalie. Since the calendar turned to 2020, Seguin has been held goalless and it’s incredibly frustrating for a team that doesn’t score a ton of goals. It’s not from a lack of effort, though – on Tuesday night, he was shooting the puck and at times it felt like his frustration might have been getting in the way of his accuracy. However, on the line with Hintz and Corey Perry, Bowness may have stumbled on the combination to get Seguin out of this funk.
Number two, the Stars need to find something that works for them at the trade deadline. The future of the franchise could be up for debate as the trade deadline approaches. The front office doesn’t have many picks to negotiate with and the cap space could potentially become an issue. Finding a player like forward Blake Coleman of the New Jersey Devils could be the solution the team is looking for. Coleman comes cheap and the Stars could throw the Devils a few prospects in return.
With the final quarter of the season moving in and playoff positions on the line, Stars fans have a lot to be excited about. Dallas is back in action Thursday night in Canada against the Toronto Maple Leafs.