Sam Bennett and the Stanley Cup Playoffs appear to be the perfect match.
The Calgary Flames forward had two more goals and an assist in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Dallas Stars in Game 4 of the Western Conference First Round on Sunday, taking over the team lead with five goals in the postseason.
The best-of-7 series is tied 2-2. Game 5 is at Rogers Place in Edmonton, the hub city in the West, on Tuesday (5:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, CBC).
“He’s the type of guy that looks forward to the type of game that the playoffs offer,” coach Geoff Ward said, “so he’s been a real effective performer for us.”
Bennett, in his sixth NHL season, has seven points (five goals, two assists) in eight postseason games. That’s second on the No. 6-seeded Flames, one behind Sean Monahan.
In Game 4 against the No. 3-seeded Stars, Bennett played a playoff career-high 20:52 and scored at 3:57 of the second period, taking the place of the injured Matthew Tkachuk on the power play, and again at 14:50, driving the net and converting a rebound of Milan Lucic‘s shot.
“It’s definitely good for personal confidence, I think,” he said. “I’m just trying to do whatever I can to help this team win. If it’s making hits or scoring goals, I just want to do whatever I can to help this team. Obviously those would feel a lot nicer if we had a W today, but at the end of the day, it’s just move on and regroup.”
Bennett has thrived with the extra pressure and physicality of the playoffs.
In Calgary’s short stay in the playoffs last season, a five-game loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, Bennett led the Flames with five points (one goals, four assists).
That comfort zone is apparent again. Along with the seven points this postseason, he leads the NHL with 47 hits. He has 18 points (11 goals, seven assists) in 28 career playoff games.
“To be honest with you, I think he just relishes this time of year,” Ward said. “He was our best player last year in the playoffs. I know before that he’s had some real strong playoffs for Calgary before I was here. I think he enjoys being back at center. He was on the wing for a while when he got here. He’s back at the position he grew up playing so he’s comfortable there.”
After playing wing on the fourth line for most of this season and coming off a regular season of 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 52 games, Bennett was moved to center on Calgary’s third line with Lucic and Dillon Dube.
“All those guys at a different point in time have been a driver on that line for us,” Ward said. “The combination of them together has been good but he’s a certainly a guy that relishes the time of year. I think all three of them do but he seems to consistently put good performances out there at playoff time.”
Bennett said the combination has paid off with production all around this postseason. Lucic has six points (one goal, five assists) in eight games and Dube has five points (four goals, one assists) in eight games.
“We’re doing a really good job on the forecheck,” Bennett said. “[Lucic] is in there hard every time. [Dube] is playing fast and we’re able to generate a lot of plays with our speed and battling down low. I think that’s really how we’re having our line’s success right now.”