When hockey gets rolling again on January 13, the Dallas Stars will be seeking a measure of revenge.
The Stars lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final last season and did little to change operations. News they’ll have to start the 2020-2021 NHL season without goalie Ben Bishop or forward Tyler Seguin hasn’t changed the plan.
Bishop and Seguin will be back around March, which potentially gives the Stars three months without some top players.
That puts spotlights on goalie Anton Khudobin and forward Jamie Benn.
Khudobin confiscated the starting gig in the playoffs, making 13 straight starts after Bishop was injured. He’s never made more than 37 starts in a season, but this year could change that. The 34-year-old played well in the post-season, going 14-10 with a 2.69 goals against average.
It was because of Khudobin the Stars were absolutely lethal to play against in five-on-five situations. His even-strength numbers in the regular season led all goalies who played at least 20 games, more than earning the three-year deal he signed in October.
Speaking of five-on-five, the Stars need to improve offensively. Like, a lot.
That, theoretically, is where Benn comes in. The forward had 39 points in 69 games last season, his lowest total since a 33-point campaign in 2012-2013. Benn’s floundering numbers have been the subject of a lot of press, but he did score 79 points in 82 games three seasons ago. The Stars hope he finds that form again with Seguin out of the lineup.
“He’s [Benn] a tough guy to gauge by points only,” general manager Jim Nill said. “He brings so many different elements. There’s the physical presence he brings, the leadership presence he brings. There are not a lot of guys around the league who demand respect when he’s on the ice more than Jamie Benn, and that’s from a skill point of view and from a physical point of view.”
Benn and Alexander Radulov were Seguin’s linemates, but they did little to help the Stars’ dreadful shooting percentage in five-on-five situations. Dallas was 29th overall with 6.7 percent, stemming just 109 even-strength goals – second last in the NHL to Detroit.
If the Stars get more out of Benn and Khudobin proves himself worthy the starting position, Dallas will put themselves well on their way to vengeance. But starting the year without top players like Bishop and Seguin will hurt, giving the team something to work toward over the stretch of an incredibly unique year.
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