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Stars' fortunes in series could hinge on Benn's success

The captain's career-long brilliance against St. Louis continued with a goal in Game 1, but it's clear he can do even more

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Jamie Benn has had success in his career against the St. Louis Blues.

Jamie Benn has had a success in the playoffs.

There's a reason for both, and the Stars are hoping those reasons play out strongly in this second round best-of-seven series.

Jamie Benn is a physical player who thrives on emotion. The Blues provide the physical play, the playoffs provide the emotion. It's a combination that should help Dallas and Benn.

"It's not rocket science," said teammate Jason Spezza.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm1: Benn cleans up rebound on power play

"There are some teams that you get good feelings against, confidence," Spezza added. "His games when he is engaged physically are always his best. It's not a secret. For a guy to have his skill, he's one of the true power forwards left in the game.

"When he plays that way, he's hard to stop."

Benn got off to a good start in Game 1, with three hits, one shot on goal, and one goal, but it's clear he can do even more against the Blues. He has 39 points (19 goals, 20 assists) in 39 career regular season games against St. Louis, as well as 120 shots on goal.

In four games against the Blues and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington this season, Benn had five goals and was plus-6 to help Dallas go 3-1-0.

"I can't really pinpoint anything," Benn said of his success. "Obviously, a great goalie with a great team in front of him."

Video: Bogorad, Razor discuss Stars' Game 1 loss to Blues

That's typical Benn. He's not going to overthink things, but there are reasons he succeeds in these games.

Stars coach Jim Montgomery stated matter-of-factly that: "Jamie Benn does well against physical teams."

He did that against Nashville, too, using big hits to help lead the Stars. On one of the biggest plays in Game 5, Benn shoved Ryan Ellis away to win a free puck, and set up Alexander Radulov for a goal that made a statement in an eventual 5-3 win.

"That play was huge for our team," Spezza said. "When you see a big hit, it definitely gets the emotions going. You want to foster as much emotion as possible in the playoffs. You go every other day, and you've got to bring your emotion every game. And those big plays, they help, and Jamie helps bring that for us."

Montgomery said he believes the flow of the playoffs helps feed Benn's engine. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward has to pace himself at times during the 82-game regular season, but Montgomery said the fact the team rarely practices during the playoffs and focuses on games helps Benn's style.

Video: Benn on late goal in Stars' Game 1 loss to Blues

"We're playing every second day, and he has more time to rest, he has more time to play his true power forward-type game," Montgomery said. "His second and third effort, he has better energy. Because of that, it looks like he has more passion. The passion's always there, it's whether he has the energy to do it."

Benn said he enjoys the playoffs, and one of the reasons is because they have been rare. Benn played in his 26th-career postseason game Thursday. By contrast, former teammate James Neal this season played in his 104th.

That's a sign of just how much Benn has endured with the Stars, and also how driven he is to succeed.

"It's exciting, it's fun, it's great to be a part of," Benn said. "I'm just enjoying the moment, living in the moment, really just taking it game by game and trying to do whatever we can to win individual games here as we go along. I try and enjoy it and take it all in."

And enjoying it, of course, means laying out a few hits and trying hard to be a villain in St. Louis.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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