Goal 14 for No. 14 was exactly what the doctor ordered for the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night. Jamie Benn’s game-winning overtime goal got the Stars back in the win column after a messy week going into the All Star break. Monday night against the Tampa Bay Lightning was a big night for the captain – he scored two goals that gave his team leads.
It was a performance that the Stars need to see more often from Benn.
“Great athletes have the ability to slow the game down in their mind and take what’s there,” coach Rick Bowness said. “ I think Jamie did a great job of being composed on both goals.”
“I was lucky to knock that puck down,” Benn said “ Tonight was just one of those nights where a couple of dekes worked.”
A few dekes or not, Benn had a big opportunity to win and he found a way to get it done. Now for the Stars to take those next steps to become a true power heading into the playoffs, they need more big nights from him.
Benn’s Heating Up, Stars Need Scorer
There have been spurts this season where Benn has looked like he was getting back into his vintage form. Over the last few games, the captain has shown that father time has not caught him yet.
Thus far in the month of January, Benn has recorded six points in nine games. Five of those points have been goals. The statistics aren’t earth-shattering, but when you consider that Benn had six points and four goals for the entire month of December, things are looking much better. Let’s also not forget that the All-Star break took a week of play away from this month.
“More points, more goals,” should be the battle cry for the Stars heading toward the trade deadline. They are struggling to score – the team has the fourth-lowest goal total in the NHL and are in the company of the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings toward the bottom. It’s not a comfortable spot for a team to be, even a defensive-minded one.
If the Stars can’t solve the issue at the trade deadline, then maybe the recent play from Benn could be the answer. He has been quietly rising on the team’s leading goalscorer list. He currently sits a single goal behind fellow forward and leader Roope Hintz. Benn is also racking up goals faster than anyone else on the team right now. Over the last five games, he has scored twice as many goals as the team’s top five scorers.
The Stars need the temperature to continue to rise on Benn’s hot streak. He could be the solution to the Stars’ goalscoring problems.
Hintz Injury Problem
There’s another side to why the Stars need more big nights from their captain. Monday night, Hintz recorded a single shift before exiting the game against the Lightning with a reported upper-body injury.
There isn’t much to report on the injury right now. Bowness said in his postgame press conference that Hintz is day-to-day. How long that could actually mean is up in the air. However, what can be taken away is this is multiple times the team’s leading goalscorer has been injured this season. The Stars have already had enough scoring problems and this adds to the mounting frustration.
With Hintz being out for an undetermined amount of time, the need for a regular presence in the offensive zone is crucial. Benn’s recent run of offense is proving he could be the guy to fill that void. It’s a much more blue-collar approach to scoring than Hintz would normally provide. However, a goal is always worth one point, no matter how it goes in.
Maximizing Benn’s Talent
The way to get Benn to have consistently big nights is both in his hands and Bowness’.
The way Benn can make more noise is first to keep the mentality he’s had all season. After his big game against the Winnipeg Jets, Benn recalled some wisdom his father gave him.
“My dad taught me a pretty good lesson in baseball,” Benn said. “You go 0-for-3 you’re bummed, but you have another chance to go up to the plate and get a hit, and you could be a hero.” On any given night Benn can be a hero for the Stars. That’s exactly why the organization named him captain and is paying him $76 million.
The second thing Benn can do to earn that paycheck and push himself up the goal-scoring list is rack up shots. In the past, any season in which he recorded more than 30 goals, Benn was shooting more than 240 times. Shooting more leads to more goals might seem like an oversimplification, but, as Wayne Gretzky said, you miss all the shots you don’t take. Firing away is the right path for the Stars captain.
What Bowness can do to help his captain out is perfect his line. A solid line could be continuing to combine Tyler Seguin and Benn and adding Denis Gurianov. It’s a lethal combination of power, passing, and speed. Seguin, as the team’s leader in assists, can set both of his linemates up with incredible scoring chances. Gurianov adds the second dimension to Benn’s offense.
The seasons Benn was scoring the most were the same years he was sharing the puck. His lights out 41-goal 2015-16 season was also the same season he had his second-highest total of assists. It’s not rocket science – not knowing if Benn is going to pass or shoot can only frustrate defenders. Gurianov has pure lightning speed and is the team’s fourth-highest goalscorer, a solid companion.
Getting the most out of Benn is what will make the Stars a true Stanley Cup contender. We’ll see if he can continue to heat up Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs.