Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin lead Stars over Islanders in vintage fashion – The Athletic


DALLAS — When Jamie Benn won the Art Ross Trophy in 2015, he finished the season in dramatic fashion with 87 points. Through 18 games this season, Benn is on pace to finish with 91 points.

“He’s got some skill in the tank still, I think,” Tyler Seguin said. “Tweet it.”

Plenty has been tweeted, and said, about Benn and Seguin on the ice in recent years and not much has come glowingly. Guilty parties range from fans, media and even the franchise’s own front office and ownership. Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Islanders was an emphatic statement by the old superstars of the Dallas Stars.

These days, the Dallas dynamic duo up front is Roope Hintz and Jason Robertson. Each came into Saturday night riding career highs in points streak at 10 consecutive games. While Robertson extended his streak with a third-period goal, Hintz was a late scratch for the Stars with a lower-body injury. He missed practice Friday but was on the ice for morning skate Saturday and took warmups before the game.

“He was a game-time decision tonight,” head coach Pete DeBoer said. “Tried it. I don’t believe it’s anything long term. I would call him day to day.”

With Hintz out, the Stars were without arguably their best overall forward and the anchor of one of the best lines in the NHL. To begin the game, Benn was on a line with Robertson and Joe Pavelski. Early in the second period, Seguin was called for high-sticking. The Stars killed off the penalty, with Benn, Radek Faksa, Miro Heiskanen and Ryan Suter on the ice to complete the kill and Seguin joining them out of the box. Shortly thereafter, Suter won a puck battle along the boards and got the puck up the ice to Faksa, who had Benn and Seguin with him against three Islanders skaters. Faksa gave the puck up to Benn, who displayed incredible patience and puck management as he entered the offensive zone:

From there, Benn dished to Seguin, who found Faksa waiting in front of the net to complete the Stars’ first goal of the game.

“They kind of got out there together on a line change and made the first goal happen,” DeBoer said. “From that point on, I kind of decided to keep them together. That line was great tonight.”

Great might be an understatement for how the line of Benn, Seguin and Mason Marchment performed. They were easily the best line for the Stars. According to Natural Stat Trick, in a little over six minutes together, that line had a Corsi For Percentage of 76.92 percent. They had six shots on goal, scoring twice, and didn’t allow a single one. Their expected goals percentage was a whopping 99.17 percent as they had 0.73 expected goals for and 0.01 expected goals against.

The second goal of the game was scored by that line, too. This time Marchment was the beneficiary of Benn’s artistic work.

“I don’t know, it’s funny how you take a break from a guy and played with him so long, it’s just instant kind of knowing where he is and where I was,” Seguin said. “I thought (Marchment) played a heck of a game as well.”

The Stars tried multiple times early last season to relive the glory days by reuniting Benn and Seguin with their former running mate, Alexander Radulov. The results were awful, as they were statistically one of the worst lines in the NHL. Benn was in his fourth season of disappointing play and Seguin was in his first season back after a series of serious injuries.

There was always more hope for Seguin’s resurgence this season after he separated himself further from his surgeries, but Benn’s has come seemingly out of nowhere. Even this season, Benn didn’t register his first point until the fifth game and his first goal until the 11th game. Through 10 games, Benn had five points, all assists. Since then, Benn has had 15 points in eight straight games, including five multi-point games — and he scored three points in three of those games.

DeBoer sees it as more of a payoff than a fluke.

“Every time I showed up at work this summer after I took the job, he was the first guy in the gym, he was the first guy at training, the first guy trying to get quicker,” DeBoer said. “Nobody put more work in than him coming into this season. I think you get what you put in sometimes and I think it definitely started there for him.”

DeBoer deserves credit for this resurgence as well. Benn’s elevated offensive production is eye-popping mostly because of how down his production has been in recent seasons. DeBoer has implemented a style of hockey that allows offensive players the freedom to do their thing. After that, it’s on the player to get rolling and rack up points. When that begins to happen, another thing surges as well.

“Everybody’s confidence, you know, I think it took him a little while,” DeBoer said. “The first 10 games, he obviously wore that pretty hard. But he’s getting rewarded now and he’s playing fantastic. (Confidence) is an immense piece to be an NHL player, riding those waves of confidence. It’s impossible to have it all year but it’s extending those waves when you’re feeling really good and minimizing the ones when you’re not so it doesn’t creep into eight or 10 games, just like winning and losing streaks.”

Benn has scored 789 points in his NHL career, 337 of which have been goals. He’s a player who has been the scoring king in the NHL so there’s no doubt that Benn has been able to do it. The question in recent years has been if can still do it. Since the start of November, Benn is tied with Robertson and Erik Karlsson for the most points in the NHL with 17, slightly ahead of Connor McDavid and Nikita Kucherov.

The question of “can he still do it?” will now evolve into “how long can he keep doing it?” Benn is highly unlikely to maintain his torrid pace and set a new career high in points, but that was never the expectation of him, nor is it required of him. Prior to Saturday night, Benn had been a third-line staple for the Stars. Dallas has been looking for the third piece for its second line all season long, and Benn’s past few weeks, topped off by Saturday’s cameo, give DeBoer an interesting option.

“We’re going to enjoy this tonight and see who we have available for next game,” DeBoer said. “But it’s hard to ignore that chemistry and that success that they had tonight.”

Three plays

These are non-scoring plays that stood out.

Suter’s Vezina moment: In a game like Saturday’s, it’s hard to point to one play as the one that won the game, but this play by Suter to keep the puck out of the net late in the third period when the Stars were just clinging to a one-goal lead was a game clincher.

“Pretty nice,” Benn said. “I was just chillin’ there in the slot watching it all go down. He saved the game for us and put himself in a good spot to make that play.”

Benn’s two-on-one chance: Sticking with the theme of Benn, his one goal and two assists don’t do justice to how many chances he had against the Islanders. In this play, he and Marchment had a two-on-one look.

The appetizer: Before Benn scored his goal in the third period, which was the game winner, he and his linemates were buzzing. Here’s what happened just a handful of seconds before Benn scored as he worked with Seguin:

Scoring distribution

The lines were jumbled because of Hintz’s absence, with Joel Hanley jumping up to play forward, so this isn’t an exact look at the lineup.

1G (Robertson) — Johnston — 2A (Pavelski)
1G2A (Benn) — 2A (Seguin) — 1G1A (Marchment)
Kiviranta — 1G (Faksa) — Glendening
Dellandrea — Blumel — Hanley

Heiskanen — 1A (Miller)
Suter — Lundkvist
Lindell — 1G (Hakanpaa)

Oettinger: .931 save percentage, 1 assist

(Photo of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin of the Stars celebrating Benn’s game-winning goal against the Islanders: Jerome Miron / USA Today)

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