Stars Forced Into Line Juggling With Dowling Out

Through the Dallas Stars’ hot streak, the Victory Green crew has been able to rely on the exceptional play of their first line of Jamie Benn, Justin Dowling, and Tyler Seguin. With Mattias Janmark and Roope Hintz returning to the team, Dallas looked like it was adding more firepower to its offense. However, the surging Stars received some bad news Saturday, finding out Dowling suffered an upper-body injury

Dowling’s injury occurred during the second period of their weekend match-up against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Stars are hoping Dowling’s injury isn’t significant because he has been a major contributor to their offense. In his previous five outings, Dowling recorded four points. This has been something of a breakout season for the 29-year-old Canadian.

Justin Dowling, Cam Talbot
Dallas Stars’ Justin Dowling scores on Calgary Flames goalie Cam Talbot (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh)

This season Dowling has seen more playing time than his last two. He has also said that playing with Benn and Seguin has been easy. His linemates agree, saying the three have outstanding chemistry and it’s showing up on the stat sheet. The trio has combined for 18 points in their last five games. For the intangibles, Benn-Dowling-Seguin has been creative, productive, and high-flying on the ice.

Moving forward Stars coach Jim Montgomery will have to begin experimenting with his lines in order to make up the team’s production.  There are a few choices Montgomery will have to consider in order to get this right. 

Adding Hintz to the Line

Hintz’s return is something that Stars fans have been looking forward to for the last two weeks. The 23-year-old made his presence felt Saturday against the Blackhawks by scoring the team’s only regulation goal. He was conservative however in his shot selection, only shooting twice over the course of nearly 17 minutes. Hintz is the Stars’ goal-scoring leader with 10.

Dallas Stars left wing Roope Hintz
Roope Hintz (Photo by George Walker/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Combining Hintz with Benn and Seguin is an interesting option. While Hintz is a terrific goal scorer, Hintz has only recorded two assists on the season. Last season, Hintz recorded 13 assists over 58 games, which is a higher pace than the current one. In order for this line to be successful, Hintz will need to up the number of assists he’s contributing. This is not to call Hintz a selfish player, a goalscorer needs to score. However with the current tear Benn and Seguin are on, Hintz would need to make sure these two stay hot. Especially Benn, who is beginning to look like the player from seasons past.

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Monday will be too small of a sample size for the experiment to have a conclusion. There are still other options that the Stars can work with including Hintz. Montgomery worked an oddball, but successful line of Corey Perry-Hintz-Benn. During games against the Ottawa Senators and Philadelphia Flyers, the trio gave the Stars more shot chances and goals than their opponents. Hintz said he really liked this line. Montgomery said the line combination has natural chemistry. Placing Hintz at wing instead of center could create more breakout chances while Benn and Perry play physical defense.

Considering Denis Gurianov

The depth of the Stars’ young talent is not limited to Miro Heiskanen and Hintz. Denis Gurianov is another youthful developing skater for Dallas. Right before the Stars started this streak, Montgomery moved Gurianov up to the second line with Alexander Radulov and Joe Pavelski. The line combination is arguably one of the best second lines in the NHL.  The line was built in order to add more firepower to the offense as Matt DeFranks commented on in the Dallas Morning News. (‘Denis Gurianov moves up lineup, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov move down as Stars search for more production,’ The Dallas Morning News, 10/26/2019)

“Denis looks like he’s ready to jump off the page,” Montgomery said. “We haven’t seen great chemistry with Seggy yet, so it’s an opportunity for him to develop chemistry.”

Denis Gurianov Dallas Stars
Denis Gurianov, Dallas Stars (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Finding chemistry the line has done. The trio has contributed five points in their last five games. 

Gurianov himself has been more willing to contribute on both sides of the ice. He’s more willing to contribute on the boards and is staying in position when things matter. His increased level of play has earned him more time on the ice. 

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In Montgomery’s mind, it might be time to give Gurianov a chance in the first line. He does have areas that he can improve, especially on the attack. However, combining him with Seguin and Benn could give the Stars a chance to develop his talent and make up for his issues at the same time. That being said, with the second line’s production, Montgomery might be wise to keep the status quo.  

Finding Chemistry Means Continuing Success

Whatever Montgomery chooses to do will have a major impact on whether the Stars are able to continue their torrent pace. The team has been so hot they are practically melting the ice along with the St. Louis Blues current lead in the standings. Getting this right, depending on the extent of Dowling’s injury, could have a significant impact on whether Dallas can continue to make up ground. If the Stars get the mix wrong, they could easily find themselves struggling again.