It could have been the nail in the coffin. It could still be the nail in the coffin. Jamie Benn is doing his best to make sure it isn’t so.
The Dallas Stars’ playoffs hopes took a big hit when Tyler Seguin went down with a knee injury after a low hit by Florida Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov on February 13. At the time of the incident, Seguin was in the top three in the league in goals and points. He was on pace to surpass his remarkable career-best 2013-2014 season. He was involved in over a third of the team’s goals this season. He was near perfect in the shootout. When the Stars needed a late game-tying or game-winning goal, Seguin was the primary target, and he delivering with his team-leading four game-winning goals. He also led the team in goals, points, power play goals and shots. Simply put, Seguin was everything for the Stars. Now, he is out for three to six weeks.
Marred in a tumultuous season and a tough road to battle back into a playoff spot, the Stars could have easily buckled. Losing the strongest crutch to a hobbled season provides an easy excuse to lose hope and fold. That’s not what Benn would do, and he isn’t letting his team do it either. As he has shown in the four games since Seguin’s injury, he and the Stars will not go down without a fight.
A Closer Look at Benn’s Performances
Despite a 1-2-1 record since the Panthers game, Benn has led the Stars with increased production, physicality and determination. It will take a total team effort to try to fill the hole left by Seguin, but it is calming and reassuring to see the captain step up and lead in such a big way.
Benn registered four goals, four assists, 20 shots and 7 penalty minutes over the past four games. He registered his first ever hat trick to lead Dallas to its only victory in that stretch. In Saturday night’s game against the Detroit Red Wings, Benn dropped the gloves early with Jonathan Ericsson in trying to jolt the Stars after a lackluster start to the game. Less than a minute after his fighting major ended, Benn tucked in the game’s opening goal between Jimmy Howard’s legs and helped swing momentum in Dallas’ favor. Even though Benn’s defensive error was partly to blame for Niklas Kronwall’s game-winning goal in overtime, he was easily one of the best players on the ice for the entirety of that game.
Against the San Jose Sharks on February 19, Benn’s strong drive to the net and repeated shot attempts led to Trevor Daley tapping in a goal that got the Stars on the board and started a comeback that would fall just short. In the previous game against the St. Louis Blues, Benn nearly single-handedly won the game with strong play at both ends of the ice and his first career hat trick.
In the upcoming week, the Stars face three critical games against division opponents also in the fight for a Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. Benn has been able to lead the Stars admirably so far, and he will have to continue to do so for the Stars to stay in the hunt for the playoffs.