With six different stops over eight years, it has been a long and winding road to the NHL for Andre Benoit
, but it appears that the 28 year old St-Albert native is finding his game at the NHL level.
Benoit played a season high 22 minutes on Thursday against the New York Rangers and blasted home his second goal of the season on a Sens power play, a goal which ultimately held up as the game winner. Incidentally, Benoit's first goal of the season — and his NHL career — held up as a game winner as well. You can't fault his sense of timing.
The playing time and production are simply the results of good play on Benoit's part. He has settled into the lineup as a heady defender and adept puck mover on the Sens' blueline. While the numbers haven't always followed, the process has been there all season long and it is becoming more and more obvious.
For Benoit, like so many other Senators, confidence has played a huge role. Not only has he been seeing regular ice time over recent weeks, he knows he will be sticking with the club through to the end of the season. The power play time and big minutes are byproducts of the confidence Benoit has instilled in the coaching staff in his abilities and vice versa.
"It's getting confidence. The more you play, the more confidence you get. I've played quite a few games now and I'm starting to play my game more and I'm a bit more relaxed out there," said Benoit. "It's nice to get power play time obviously. It's just a matter of trying to jump up in the play when I have a chance and try to be responsible at the same time. That's what I try to do. "
At 5-foot-11, Benoit can't thrive using his frame the way many defenders do. Rather, he leverages his ability to read a play and make the best decisions possible. He won't always go end-to-end like Erik Karlsson may or throw the big hip check like Marc Methot, but a smart poke check here or good outlet pass there can be just as effective for a defensive system, even if the highlight reel doesn't take notice.
As his game has grown into his new found confidence, Benoit is joining the rush more often and creating dangerous opportunities for the Sens in the offensive zone as a consequence of his solid defensive play. The timing of these strikes is simply a matter of determining when an opponent is in a bad spot.
"You're looking for them to be out of position. If you can make it a 3-on-2 or a 4-on-3, that's when you want to join the rush. If they're already four men back, there's not much point in being up there," said Benoit. "It's trying to be available and create opportunities."
As a player who has made many stops over many years before getting his NHL shot, the season Benoit is having is a dream come true. The Sens currently have the sixth best record in the NHL and are in the thick of the playoff race.
"It's obviously a great year, it's been my dream all along. It's what I've been working the seven or eight years of pro that I've played for. I think taking the route that I did, I think I might be able to enjoy it a bit more than some people who got it right away. My family and I are really enjoying it right now."
If good things truly come to those who wait, there will be plenty more of good to expect from Andre Benoit going forward.
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