When Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites called out Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn in late December, it was clear something was wrong in the Lone Star state. At the time, Dallas was struggling to score and the team was just barely holding on to the final Western Conference wild-card spot.
But a victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night secured the Stars’ advancement to the post-season, marking their third playoff berth in the past six years after missing out five straight seasons from 2008-09 through 2012-13. You could say Lites’ comments got to Dallas’ most important players, as the mixture of Ben Bishop’s 12-2-0 record down the stretch and the hot play of Seguin and Alexander Radulov made the team one to watch.
On one hand, Seguin has been Dallas’ best forward in the second half of the season, recording 17 points in his past 14 games and 43 in the past 40. He has found some recent success with Radulov, who turned a mid-March healthy scratch experience into motivation for a run that includes 14 points in the past nine games. Seguin went from being on pace for the lowest goal output of his career at the end of December to having his 77-point campaign with two games remaining likely falling just short of his career-best point total of 84.
But Benn hasn’t been nearly as productive. Since Jan. 1, the Dallas captain has just 21 points in 37 games for a 0.57 points-per-game average, a step down from his 31 points in 40 games for a 0.78 PPG in the first half of the year. Benn was playing with Seguin on the top line in late December, but has recently been dropped to the second line with Roope Hintz and Mats Zuccarello. Benn has just one point in the past seven games and is in danger of finishing with his second-lowest point total (he’s at 52 points in 77 games this season) in a non-lockout year since recording 41 points as a rookie. Benn is shooting less, too: in 2019, Benn has 91 shots with a 12.1 shooting percentage, compared to 97 shots and a 16.5 conversion rate in the first half of the 2018-19 campaign.
But even with Benn’s struggles, Dallas’ stars have still had enough of an impact to help the team make the playoffs. Per the NHL, Seguin (31), Benn (27) and Radulov (29) have combined for 42.4 percent of Dallas’ goals this year (87 of 206), only trailing non-playoff teams Edmonton (51.7 percent) and Chicago (45.3 percent) in terms of goal percentage by its top three scorers. Given that the Stars have the third-lowest goals-for in the league, it shows how important Dallas’ key forwards have been. For reference, Seguin’s 119 high-danger scoring chances just edges out Benn’s 114 total by five opportunities, good for 23rd and 29th in the league, respectively, per Natural Stat Trick.
The struggles for Dallas’ top two forwards have been well documented this season, but in Seguin’s case, he managed to turn things around in time for the playoffs. Benn still needs a bit of help to get moving in what has been a disappointing season for the power forward, but the playoffs offer a fresh start for players looking to have a breakthrough run. As it stands, the Stars will likely face the Winnipeg Jets in the first round, with Dallas winning the season series 3-1-0. The good news for the Stars? Benn had five points against the Jets this season, while Seguin had nine. The difference in Seguin and Benn’s play in 2019 has been significant, but if Benn can get going and match Seguin’s production rate from the past few months, watch out. Maybe a playoff reunion on the top line can spice things back up for Benn and make him a top forward once again.