CALGARY, AB -- Keep shooting, kid.
It’s simple advice from the Calgary Flames to rookie Sam Bennett, who despite his best efforts, remains without a goal in his past 18 games.
“Don’t stop what you’re doing,” forward Joe Colborne offered. “They’re going to go in. It’s the NHL and it takes a while for you to figure out how to score in this league. The skills are there. The intensity has been better than ever. That’s why we’re so happy with the way he’s playing. The goals are going to start going in. He’s going to get one off his leg or something like that and it’ll spark him to a hot streak. There’s nothing wrong with him right now. He’s playing some of the best hockey he’s ever played.”
The effort has been there.
The quality has, too.
The execution? Not as much.
Bennett, who dumped 36 goals and 91 points on opposing Ontario Hockey League goaltenders in his draft year two seasons ago, has five goals and 14 points through 39 skates. All but one, an assist, have come prior to Bennett’s 18-game drought.
“That’s tough for a young kid,” coach Bob Hartley said. “They all made it to the NHL putting pretty big numbers up in junior. Suddenly it’s not the same anymore. It’s not the same goalies. It’s not the same defencemen. It’s no the same game. It’s still the same puck, same net, but gosh, it’s mighty tough to score goals. You have to stick with a plan, making sure you play well in the three zones on both sides of the puck, you bring energy, you bring your speed. That’s how you get it done.”
Benentt’s done all that.
There’s little he hasn’t done, in fact.
And when he did dip, Bennett quickly picked up the pace.
“He had a dip maybe seven, eight games ago,” Hartley said. “We gave him a warning….not a threat but a warning. It worked wonders for Johnny (Gaudreau). But at the same time, I think he’s playing great. I really believe that he’s playing with energy. As long as I see energy…as long as I see an impact in a game, why should I sit a veteran? Why should I sit a kid? There’s no reason.
“You want players to create an impact. Obviously if everyone would score a goal, we’d score 18 a game. That’s not the way it is. As long as you work hard, as long as you bring something…he had a bottom wave a few weeks ago and we sat with him. We sit with Sammy everyday. Everyday. [Micheal Ferland], [Sean Monahan], Johnny…all those kids. We sit with them everyday. We show them video clips. We talk with them. And that’s our job.”
That fact that Bennett is doing all the things asked of him might make it more frustrating on the 19-year-old.
“You can’t overthink it,” veteran centre Matt Stajan said. “He’s a young guy. It’s his first full year in the league. Sometimes you tend to press a little. He’s playing good hockey. He’s in on the forecheck, throwing his body around, he’s making plays, getting chances. That’s a recipe for success and the goals will come. Every year, every player goes through stints like this. Obviously sometimes in your career you go through longer ones.
“There’s no doubt in my mind if he gets one, he’ll get a bunch after that. That’s just the way hockey goes sometimes. You’ve got to keep it simple.”
All he needs is one.
“It could be a hot streak for an extended period of time, too,” Colborne started, “with the way he’s been playing.”