Jamie Benn isn’t ready to talk about his legacy with the Dallas Stars and what a Stanley Cup championship would do for it.
“No,” the Stars captain said. “We’re staying in the moment here as a group.”
Benn is doing everything he can to make sure the Stars stay in the Edmonton bubble until he receives the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
Dallas leads the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in the Western Conference Final. Game 5 of the best-of-7 series is at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city for the conference finals and Stanley Cup Final, on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“Our team feeds off of Jamie Benn,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “That’s why he’s our captain, that’s why he’s our leader.”
Stars forward Joe Pavelski said he has noticed Benn’s leadership has escalated and gotten more inspirational in the Stanley Cup Playoffs both on the ice and off it.
“He wants it,” Pavelski said. “You can see that.”
He has been one of Dallas’ best players with 17 points (seven goals, 10 assists) in the past 17 games after not getting a point in its three games during the round-robin portion of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers. The forward is second on the Stars in postseason scoring, behind defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who has 22 points (five goals, 17 assists) in 20 games.
Benn has goals in the past two games, both one-goal wins for the Stars, and four points (two goals, two assists) in the conference final. He has a point on each of their three game-winning goals against Vegas.
A point on Dallas’ potential series-clinching goal would make Benn the fourth player to have a point on each of his team’s game-winning goals in a conference finals series, joining Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky (Los Angeles Kings, 1993), Raymond Bourque (Boston Bruins, 1988) and Mike Bossy (New York Islanders, 1983).
“When you see him go out like that and give it all everyone follows,” Stars defenseman John Klingberg said. “It’s easy. I think that’s something that he brings every night. His physicality, his poise with the puck and how strong he is on the puck as well, he’s creating a lot of scoring chances for whoever he plays with. I’ve been able to play with him my entire NHL career here and I couldn’t be happier to play with a captain like that. He brings it every day.”
Off the ice, it’s Benn whose voice and actions have spoken loudest for the Stars.
Bowness mentioned what he was like at the morning skate prior to Game 3 with the Stars coming off a 3-0 loss in Game 2, when Benn was held without a shot on goal.
“You can see the determination in his eyes, like ‘OK, we’re going to go out there and play a much better game than we did in Game 2,’ Bowness said, “and he leads the way.”
Benn started the game with a big hit on Vegas forward Ryan Reaves, who is typically the one doing the hitting. He followed by scoring a goal, then picked up an assist on Alexander Radulov’s overtime winner by starting the rush play out of the defensive zone, and finished with six shots on goal and five hits.
“Inspirational,” Bowness said. “When he’s playing that hard and that heavy he’s one tough son of a gun to play against and the guys feed off him.”
Benn delivered again in Game 4 with a power-play goal off a rebound in the slot that gave Dallas a 2-1 lead at 19:01 of the second period.
The Stars won 2-1.
“What I like about it is he’s been very direct,” Pavelski said. “When he has the puck, you have an idea of where it’s going. … There’s no guessing about what he’s going to do or hope plays out there. He’s been very direct and hard.”
Benn didn’t have this type of an impact on the scoresheet in the regular season, when he scored 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 69 games, a career-low in production in a full season (excluding the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, when he had 33 points in 41 games).
It was Benn’s second straight season with a dip in scoring after he had 53 points (27 goals, 26 assists) in 78 games in 2018-19 after scoring 79 points (36 goals, 43 assists) in 82 games the season before.
“So, the numbers are the numbers; I always look at it that it doesn’t matter what you do in the regular season,” Bowness said. “If you score 50 goals in the regular season and you don’t show up in the playoffs and your team loses in the first round, who cares that you scored 50 goals? Nobody. The most important thing is to do what you can to get in the playoffs because it’s a darn tough league just to get in. Regardless of what Jamie’s numbers tell you, he did a lot of great things to get us into the playoffs.”
He’s doing even more now to keep the Stars in the hunt to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1999.
“He’s doing what you want your captain to do, lay it on the line every shift and leave everything out there,” Bowness said. “He’s a huge inspiration lift to our team. He’s playing the best hockey I’ve seen him play in the two years I’ve been in Dallas.”