The Dallas Stars still have their issues on offense, are still dealing with some key injuries, and are still clinging to the top Wild Card spot in the Western Conference, but none of that really matters at the moment. What does matter is that the Dallas Stars have an elite guy in net for them at the right time of the year.
That guy in net is Ben Bishop and he is providing just the type of goaltending this team needs right now.
Three consecutive shutouts, one goal allowed in his past four starts, 204 minutes of shutout hockey and four consecutive wins in his starts. I know it’s been a dark decade for goaltending in Dallas, but, my friends, elite goaltending is finally back and this is what it looks like. This is what it looks like when a goaltender who is healthy, who is elite, and who has a winning track record, locks in and plays to the edge of his high ceiling.
There is also something to be said about the timing of this incredible run for Bishop. It’s not as if he is posting three consecutive shutouts in November, which would still be impressive. Bishop is posting this streak in March, right in the middle of the Stars’ frenzied drive to their first playoff appearance in three years. In this run that Bishop has rattled off the Stars are 4-1-0, have defeated the third place St.Louis Blues, the talented and Wild Card-contending Colorado Avalanche, and two Eastern Conference clubs with nothing to play for, which makes them incredibly dangerous foes for a Stars club that has everything to play for.
The fact of the matter is that Ben Bishop deserves a seat at the Vezina Trophy table at the NHL awards this summer. In fact, after this run and after looking at the entirety of his season, I’m leaning towards rewriting that last line and saying he should win the Vezina Trophy. He has just been that good and that important for this Stars club in 2018-19.
Think about it, where would the Stars be without Ben Bishop?
They almost certainly would not be in the first Wild Card slot. In fact, they would probably be at the bottom of the Western Conference because this team just can’t score enough goals.
At the end of the season, when the Stars hold their own awards banquet, the club should just set the team MVP award on Bishop’s chair. It’s over. He, along with Anton Khudobin, are the reason that the Stars are sitting in the first Wild Card slot and two points behind the Blues for third in the Central.
If that doesn’t meet the definition of Vezina worthy, to be the most important piece and arguably the reason your club has a shot at the postseason, then I don’t know what the award means anymore.
In fact, it’s not as if Bishop doesn’t have the season long numbers to back up his candidacy either. His season long numbers are so impressive that they are at or near the top of the league in every major goaltending category. In goals against average (GAA) Bishop trails only Jordan Binnington, who has a 1.81 mark but has only started 21 games for the Blues. Bishop by comparison has started 40 games, 19 more than Binnington, and has posted a 2.08 mark. In save percentage Bishop is tops in the league with .932, a slight edge over Vasilevskiy (.931) and Binnington (.928).
In shutouts, Bishop has recorded six, including three in a row, and only trails Marc-Andre Fleury who has eight for the Vegas Golden Knights. In other words, he is right up there with a three time cup champion (Fleury), the goaltender on the best team in the league (Vasilevskiy), and the hottest young rookie in the league (Binnington).
Where things could become tricky for Bishop are in the wins and games started departments. He is lacking in both — and by a healthy margin. In wins Bishop ranks 15th with 23 on the season, a far cry from the league leader in Martin Jones who has 34. In games started Bishop ranks 21st with 39 games. That figure ranks well below the 58 games that Fleury has started this season. It could be argued that Bishop doesn’t have the amount of wins and absolutely doesn’t have the number of starts to qualify with the workhorses that shower the top of the rankings in these two areas.
Those concerns can probably be answered by the fact that Bishop did miss time with an upper body ailment in early February, a stretch in which he missed seven consecutive games. It can also be argued that the Stars have not needed to play Bishop into heavy minutes because the team is blessed with Anton Khudobin who has provided incredible goaltending as the backup. This deployment has allowed Bishop to remain fresh for the late season push and the ability to recover from injuries or soreness as needed this season, and gives the Stars a one-two punch in the crease.
The Stars are entering the critical stretch of the season and the teams below them in the standings are determined to be as unhelpful to Dallas as possible. It’s literally win and get in time for the Stars and they are going to have to ride their number one goaltender to secure their slot in the Western Conference playoff picture. So far, Bishop has been perfect in his role in the daily drama that is this Dallas Stars season.
The Vezina Trophy would be a validating award for Bishop and the Stars, in saying that they did fix their goaltending woes and that Bishop was the right guy to sign back in May of 2017. However, we don’t need a trophy to tell us that. Stars fans have seen it all season, they have seen what a difference an elite netminder can make, reminding us all of what the club had years ago.
That really isn’t the point though.
The point is, Ben Bishop hasn’t just validated his contract or the Stars decision to acquire him. Bishop has cemented himself into the conversation with the top goaltenders in the NHL with his three straight shutouts, and his overall play throughout the season. He has earned the right to be in the conversation for the award by being nothing less than the most important piece on the Dallas roster this season. At this time of year, that can go a very long way.