After head coach Jim Montgomery went coy about his starter to kickoff the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for his Dallas Stars, the day has finally arrived and we have an answer. Ben Bishop will be in net tonight when the puck drops at 8:30 PM CDT.
For most teams, that wouldn’t even be much of a storyline. Going with the starter is an assumption 98% of teams make as they kickoff the postseason. Dallas, on the other hand, has a little bit of a luxury with both Bishop and Anton Khudobin having excellent seasons. The reason Khudobin, moreso a 1B this season than a true “backup” goaltender, was even talked about as a starter for this series was purely situational.
In the three road games Dallas played at Nashville this season, Khudobin appeared in all three and allowed just four total goals, including a shutout, and rocked a sparkling 96.4 save percentage. Overall, he had a 2.00 goals against average and a 94.9 save percentage against the Predators this season through four contests.
Bishop hasn’t faced the Predators this season. That’s a combination of scheduled starts, game situations, and injuries throughout the year. However, Bishop turned in one of the best performances among goaltenders this season in most statistical categories you could look at. He’s also been on an absolute roll down the stretch of the season, shutting out opponents six times in the last 15 games he played. In other words, Bishop is feeling himself right now.
There isn’t really a bad choice between either goaltender. That’s a luxury most teams can’t afford in the playoffs.
In other roster news, Jason Spezza appears to be starting this playoff series as a healthy scratch. Justin Dowling is currently expected to center the fourth line center, the spot Spezza has most often played as the Stars got healthier in the latter part of the year. Spezza has struggled offensively this season and has eaten a couple of healthy scratches. His time on ice was usually in line with bottom six forward usage when in the lineup.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Dickinson - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Mats Zuccarello
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Justin Dowling - Tyler Pitlick
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy
Nashville Predators Lineup
Filip Forsberg - Ryan Johansen - Viktor Arvidsson
Mikael Granlund - Kyle Turris - Craig Smith
Colton Sissons - Nick Bonino - Austin Watson
Brian Boyle - Calle Jarnkrok - Wayne Simmonds
Roman Josi - Ryan Ellis
Mattias Ekholm - P.K. Subban
Dan Hamhuis - Dane Fabrro
Pekka Rinne is the anticipated starter in net and Juuse Saros will backup.