COLUMBUS, Ohio – Come on. No way. They wrapped sandpaper around the edges of pucks, put a match in a vise on the goal line and stationed Tyler Seguin in front. The Dallas Stars center fired a puck inches off the ice, just to the right of the vise, so the sandpaper scraped the match head and lit a flame.
Out of all the trick shots Seguin and Jamie Benn did with YouTube sensation Dude Perfect – firing at bowling pins and a mannequin head and a target between a guy’s legs, scoring on a goalie with a big rubber duck and a small pumpkin and a partially eaten doughnut – that might have been the most unbelievable.
They shot the video over two days in early September, before training camp. The video was posted at 5 p.m. CT Monday, and it had more than a half-million viewers in 24 hours. One of them was Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane, who made his own video a year ago in which he displayed some sick stickhandling, then flipped the puck on his blade … and faked hitting the camera.
Kane sent Seguin a text message.
“Is all that stuff real?” Kane asked.
“There’s nothing fake in that whole thing,” Seguin said. “Everything was real.”
OK. Maybe everything was real. It was easier to believe Tuesday night after the Stars’ 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Seguin, who had the precision to light a match with a puck, had the precision to deflect two Benn shots out of midair and into the net. Benn, who had the aim to make a basketball hoop with a puck at long range, had the aim to pick the upper right corner of the net from the left circle – with a Jacket on his back, after winning a battle with two others.
When Seguin added an empty-netter for his fifth career hat trick – assisted by Benn, of course – you wished piñatas had been dangling from the crossbar to make it interesting.
“The funny thing about lighting the match, it took three shots,” Seguin said. “Swear to God. It was luck, but it took me three shots.”
It’s time for Seguin and Benn to go viral. They finished among the NHL’s scoring leaders last season – Seguin fourth with 84 points, Benn 10th with 79 – as the Stars snapped a five-year playoff drought. They bring out the best in each other. They are the faces of a franchise on the rise.
“We push each other every day in practice,” Benn said. “When he scores, I want to score. We have two competitive personalities, and I think it wears off on each other. At times like today, we have fun out there.”
Seguin has a reputation for having too much fun. The Boston Bruins traded him to the Stars in July 2013, even though they drafted him second overall three years before and he put up strong numbers. There were reports about partying. There were issues with his activities on social media.
But Stars general manager Jim Nill had known Seguin for years, since he was the assistant GM with the Red Wings and Seguin was playing junior in the Detroit suburbs for the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers. He felt much of what was reported was exaggerated or untrue. He trusted not just Seguin’s talent, but his commitment. He kept perspective about his age.
Seguin broke into the NHL at age 18. He’s still young now.
“He’s 22 years old,” Nill said. “He likes to be around people and have fun, but he’s not the wild, goofy party guy. That’s not Tyler. He’s not like that. That’s where he’s misread a lot of times. … He is very competitive. He wants to win. He wants to be the best.”
Seguin went from the wing in Boston to his natural position at center in Dallas. Not only that, he became a No. 1 center. He went from a veteran team to a young team, from a supporting role to a leading role.
At the same time, Benn went from center to his natural position on the wing, and he became the captain. After deferring to veterans like Mike Modano and Brenden Morrow early in his career, he was now out front.
Seguin asked the Stars for video of Benn last summer so he could study his tendencies. They produced almost immediately last season but had their coming out party Nov. 14 against the Calgary Flames – four goals and an assist for Seguin, one goal and five assists for Benn. They found chemistry as linemates and teammates.
“I think we were pretty competitive with each other at first,” Seguin said. “No words were exchanged, but I think I’ve always been a high-end player when it comes to stats, and so has he. We had to kind of come together. We found a friendship off the ice.”
That friendship is important. Seguin is to Benn as Kane is to Jonathan Toews in Chicago.
“I might be the second-most Captain Serious after Tazer there,” Benn said.
Benn, 25, maybe doesn’t have enough fun, and Seguin loosens him up.
“They’ve really bonded together, those two,” Nill said. “They have a great rapport. It’s been kind of neat to see. I think that’s where Tyler’s good for him. Jamie’s quiet and reserved, and all of a sudden Tyler will say something, and Jamie will be like, ‘Where’d that come from?’ And away they go.”
Asked about his effect on Benn, Seguin smiled.
“He’s always been a very quiet guy,” Seguin said. “That’s why people were wondering what type of captain he was going to be. I, on the other hand, love awkward moments, and I’m very outgoing. I don’t know if I brought stuff out of him, but we became close friends. You definitely see the progression with him and how much he’s changed.”
You definitely see it in the trick-shot video. Seguin has tattoos up and down his arms, and he and Benn drew in marker on the arms of one of the Dude Perfect dudes to see whose ink was best. There was Benn, the second-most Captain Serious after Toews, laughing and celebrating victory with raised arms.
But there is so much you don’t see: Seguin and Benn calling teammates to come back to Dallas early to get a head start on training camp. Seguin and Benn showing up in shape – both in the top 10 percent in team fitness testing. Seguin and Benn arranging team get-togethers. Seguin and Benn studying video together. Seguin and Benn challenging each other after putting up zero points in their first two games this season, then putting up seven points combined against the Jackets.
Each member of the Stars is issued an iPad. The Stars upload each player’s shifts to his iPad after each game. What each player does with that is largely up to him. Seguin studies his faceoffs, an area in which he still needs to improve, and he and Benn go over little things constantly – rushes, zone entries.
“I think we use each other really well,” Seguin said. “Even when we’re just messing around scrimmaging and stuff, we just have this connection where we can find each other. We know where we’re going to be now. Even when it’s a soft spot after a battle, I know where he’s going to be back door. He kind of knows where I’m going to stand. It’s just something that only comes with experience, and I think we’re going to continue to grow and get better.”
In some ways, it might be harder this season. Seguin and Benn specifically – and the Stars generally – won’t surprise anyone anymore. Teams already have adjusted, taking away the neutral zone, not allowing the Stars to wind up and dart up the ice. The Stars’ strength is their speed; opponents will try to slow them down.
In other ways, it might be easier. The Stars added Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky in the off-season. That gives them a more potent second line, and that might give Seguin and Benn better matchups at times, especially at home. It should give the Stars a lethal power play. At least once Spezza and Hemsky get comfortable and find a groove.
Expectations are high in Dallas, and they will only get higher the more people catch on. If Seguin and Benn stick with it, their skill should come through. In the trick-shot video, Benn fired a puck almost the full length of the ice and knocked the head of a mannequin off the top of the net.
“That was probably three shots,” Benn said.
The second-most Captain Serious was not being serious. He did not have the luck Seguin did lighting the match. He smiled.
“Three hours?” he said with a laugh.
More like one hour, but that’s OK. What matters is this: These guys are the real deal.
“It was a lot of fun,” Benn said. “It was pretty cool to see what we could do out there.”