Ben Bishop

Stars count on another great Game 7 from Ben Bishop

3 Comments

With goals being very tough to come by during this Round 2 series, it’s only natural that the goalie matchup of Ben Bishop vs. Jordan Binnington looms large over Game 7 (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN; Live stream) between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues.

There are some fun narratives to wrap around the situation, too. Bishop, 32, is no stranger to big games, with 48 career playoff games to his name, and a sparkling .927 save percentage to combine quality with that quantity. Jordan Binnington, 25, only has 45 NHL games combined (33 regular season, 12 playoffs) in his career so far, yet he’s been a revelation for the Blues. It’s a shame that Bishop never seemed to provide Binnington tutelage during his growth as a goalie (as far as I know?), as this situation just begs for a “master vs. pupil” storyline.

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also the elephant/Bishop-sized goalie in the room: is Bishop even truly healthy enough to play in Game 7 after being shaken up by that scary Colton Parayko shot that preceded a controversial goal in the Blues’ Game 6 win over Bishop’s Stars?

As with just about any prominent injury during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, those of us outside of a team’s inner circle can only speculate about a player’s health. We can only read what we can from Game 7 itself on Tuesday, and skeptically take the Stars’ word for it about Bishop being OK.

So, let’s play along and believe that Bishop is good enough to go for Game 7.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Stars think Bishop could be Game 7 difference-maker

With that in mind, Bishop’s experience comes to play in the very specific, very pressure-packed setting of Game 7s. He’s experienced two such contests during his NHL career, winning both and earning a shutout (and even an assist) in each Game 7 back during the Lightning’s charge to a defeat in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.

As Matthew DeFranks reports for the Dallas Morning News, Stars coach Jim Montgomery does indeed believe that Bishop’s experience will come in handy.

“Yeah, for sure it is a big advantage when your goaltender has been in these games before,” Montgomery said. “He’s been to the Stanley Cup finals, and he’s had success in these kinds of games. … He’s very even-keel. The way he approaches his games, whether it is a regular season or a Game 7, Bish is always dialed into the right mind-set to give him success.”

Again, the Stars are opening themselves up to criticism if Bishop isn’t truly healthy. In years past (see: Martin Brodeur against the Avalanche; Pekka Rinne versus the Predators), a few early Game 7 goals allowed can be lethal in a tightly matched series. The Stars have a highly qualified backup in Anton Khudobin, so if Bishop gives up a regrettable goal or two — maybe top shelf stuff that he, erm, can’t reach right now? — then people will question the decision not just to go with Khudobin.

Yet, when you look at Bishop’s big-game performances, and his dominant work this season (especially lately), it’s easy to see why the Stars would lean on him.

Bishop’s two Game 7 shutouts

Actually, with that in mind, it might be fun to take a trip down memory lane. Here’s a deeper look at Bishop’s two Game 7 experiences from that Lightning run. It gives some insight on how alert and impressive Bishop was, and is also a reminder of how quickly things can change in the NHL. Admit it: this makes 2015 seem like ages ago, although maybe global politics also make those memories seem ancient, too.

April 29, 2015: Lightning beat Red Wings 2-0 in Game 7 in Round 1.

If you remember this game, you might recall it as Tampa Bay being pretty fortunate to get out of that series … and by a lot of indications, that Game 7 looks that way in retrospect.

There was an ice-in-the-veins moment for Bishop, as he went way out of his net, Hasek-style, to try to thwart a Drew Miller chance. It almost backfired, as Miller flipped the puck over Bishop, but it didn’t result in a goal.

Braydon Coburn‘s goal was the only moment where either goalie allowed one, as the second tally was an empty-netter, which Bishop earned an assist on. Bishop pitched a 31-save shutout against the Red Wings, while the Lightning’s goal came on just 16 shots against Petr Mrazek. Natural Stat Trick lists some interesting numbers that back up the Red Wings carrying the play, sometimes glaringly.

Tampa Bay did keep most of the Red Wings’ chances to the outside, as Detroit only enjoyed a more modest 5-4 advantage in high-danger scoring chances at even-strength. That could be a key element to Game 7 between the Stars and Blues; Jim Montgomery’s system (and defenders like John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen) has done a great job of mostly keeping chances to the perimeter, which can make Bishop feel that much more unbeatable when he’s “on.”

May 29, 2015: Lightning beat Rangers 2-0 in Round 3

The storylines were pretty rich with this one.

Heading into this Game 7, much was made about the “mystique” of playing such a big contest at Madison Square Garden, particularly against a very sharp Henrik Lundqvist. That wasn’t just media-friendly hyperbole, either; the Rangers had been undefeated in Game 7s at MSG at the time, and the Rangers won the Presidents Trophy for the 2014-15 season. As impressive as the Lightning were even then, it’s fair to place them as the underdogs in that one, after being the favorites against the stalwart Red Wings in that Round 1 matchup.

The Lightning did a much better job of controlling play against the Rangers in that Game 7 than they did against the Red Wings two rounds earlier. Via Natural Stat Trick, the Bolts generated a 10-4 high-danger chance advantage at even-strength, and Bishop needed only a fairly modest 22 saves to earn a shutout.

Interestingly, in both Game 7s, the score was tied 0-0 through the first two periods. A more “nervy” goalie might have been rattled by the low margin of error, but Bishop seemingly kept his emotions in check.

***

The Stars are a different team than the Lightning were, and Bishop’s an older goalie, but it’s still interesting to ponder the past. If Bishop’s anywhere near full-strength, then the Blues might just have to cross their fingers for a goal or two in Game 7.

At least if the right kind of history repeats for Bishop and the Stars.

Game 7 of Stars – Blues takes place at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday; You can watch it on NBCSN and stream it here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Bishop, Stars edge out Blues in critical Game 5

8 Comments

The St. Louis Blues certainly didn’t make life easy for Dallas on Friday, but the Stars were prepared. Ben Bishop out dueled Jordan Binnington to lead Dallas to a 2-1 victory in Game 5, putting the Stars up 3-2 in the series.

Dallas gained an edge early when Tyler Seguin set up Jason Spezza, who smashed the puck past Binnington. Spezza’s glory years might be behind him, but he’s been a huge factor in this series with three goals already.

Beyond that goal the first period was fairly even, but Dallas nevertheless went into the intermission with the lead.

The edge grew to 2-0 at 6:13 of the second period when Esa Lindell‘s backhander hit Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester in the leg on its way to the net. Lindell had 24 career goals and none in the playoffs prior to that marker, but it proved to be the game-winner.

With the game slipping out of their reach, the Blues significantly altered their lines and it seemed to help.

St. Louis got some life when Jaden Schwartz capitalized on Bishop’s mishandling of the puck to end the Stars goaltender’s shutout bid at 8:26 of the third frame. Jamie Benn was charged with a hooking penalty just 21 seconds later to give the Blues a critical power play, but Dallas killed it off.

In the end, St. Louis was 0-for-4 on the power play Friday night, which was a key to Dallas’ win. Bishop was also critical. Even though he looked bad on the Schwartz goal, Bishop still stopped 38 of 39 shots. St. Louis out shot Dallas 15-5 in the third period in a desperate, but ultimately futile attempt to alter the course of this game.

As for the fact that the Blues did look better in the third, while that’s noteworthy, it means a little less given that the Blues also had a strong third in their 4-2 loss to Dallas in Game 4. That didn’t seem to provide them with any momentum leading into Game 5 and the same might prove true for Game 6.

St. Louis’ back is against the wall now. Either they bounce back in Game 6 or their season is done.

Blues-Stars Game 6 from American Airlines Center will be Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

John Klingberg one of the driving forces behind Stars’ success

Getty
1 Comment

The Dallas Stars have one of the season’s breakthrough players in 19-year-old defenseman Miro Heiskanen.

He has been so good, so impactful, and so impressive at such a young age that his team’s starting goalie has already called him a “no doubt” Hall of Famer, and one of the best defenders he has ever played with. While it might be just a little early for Hall of Fame talk, the praise toward the No. 3 overall pick from 2018 is certainly justified because he has been great all season.

All of that praise and hype has made it a little too easy to overlook the performance of John Klingberg, Dallas’ other top defender.

So let’s take a few minutes to look at the impact he has made because he has been one of the best players in the postseason so far and a huge part of the Stars’ current run.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

If you have been paying even the slightest bit of attention to the Stars it probably shouldn’t be a surprise that Klingberg has been excelling because he has been an outstanding defender for several years now. While his defensive play has sometimes been unfairly criticized, he has been an elite possession-driving, point-producing player since he arrived in Dallas, having already twice finished in the top-six in Norris Trophy voting.

But because the team around him has always been so top-heavy and so flawed in so many areas, he has never had an opportunity to truly shine on the league’s biggest stage or get the recognition other top defenders around the league tend to get. Reputations tend to be made in the playoffs, and Klingberg hasn’t had a chance to consistently play on this stage. The 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs are just the second time in his career he has played in the postseason, and it has been some of the best hockey he has ever played in the NHL and a big reason why the Stars are in Round 2 and looking to get the upper-hand in their series against the St. Louis Blues.

He is simply operating at an elite level right now.

Entering play on Friday, there have been 26 defenders in the 2019 playoffs that have logged at least 150 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time.  Out of that group Klingberg ranks third in shot attempt differential, first in goal-differential, first in scoring-chance differential, and first in high-danger scoring chance differential (all via Natural Stat Trick). Along with the territorial domination, he also has eight points, including two goals, one of which was a series-clinching overtime goal in Round 1 against the Nashville Predators.

He is pretty much everything you want in a modern-day, top-pairing defender with his ability to skate, move the puck, join the rush, and help drive his team’s offense.

He is also one of the league’s biggest steals against the cap.

There are only six other defenders in the NHL that have produced as much offense on a per-game level as Klingberg over the past five seasons (Erik Karlsson, Brent Burns, Kris Letang, Victor Hedman, John Carlson, and Roman Josi). Other than Josi (who still only makes $4 million per season), every other player on that list makes north of $7.25 million per season.

The Stars have Klingberg signed for three more full seasons after this one at just $4.25 million per season, two years longer than what Nashville has Josi signed for.

When you combine that with the fact that Heiskanen still has two years remaining on his entry level deal, the Stars are going to get two potentially elite, two-way defenders, both of whom are capable of playing top-pairing minutes, for a grand total of just over $5 million against the salary cap. That is insane value.

General manager Jim Nill has made his share of mistakes over the years, but drafting Heiskanen at No. 3 overall and getting Klingberg on that contract has been a massive score for him and the organization. Defenders like this are really difficult to come by, and the Stars have two of them for way below market value for the next few years.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

 

Tensions rise as Stars even series with Blues

2 Comments

Game 4 started off so well for St. Louis, but it quickly went downhill en route to a 4-2 Stars victory to even the series.

Jason Dickinson was assess a high-sticking penalty just 4:44 minutes into the game and Vladimir Tarasenko capitalized on the opportunity, launching a shot that Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was only able to nick with his glove on its way to the back of the net. That was the only time St. Louis would lead though and it was a short-lived edge.

A little over six minutes later, Dickinson managed to backhand the puck past Jordan Binnington while losing his footing. In the final minute of the period and with a power-play opportunity coming to an end, Jason Spezza blasted a rebound into the net to make it 2-1.

While the Stars ended the first with the edge, it was the second frame where they pushed this game out of reach. John Klingberg and Roope Hintz padded the lead to make it 4-1.

Things got heated towards the end of the period. It started when David Perron struck Bishop near the end of the period. The Blues got away with that one, but then Binnington let his emotions get the better of him as he punched Jamie Benn and whacked Bishop on their way to the locker room.

Binnington was given two minor penalties for his hits on Benn and Bishop while Benn was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As a result, the Blues started the third period down three goals and a man.

Despite that, St. Louis did turn the final frame into something of a silver lining. Robert Thomas scored his first goal of the playoffs and St. Louis out shot Dallas 12-5 in the last 20 minutes. That doesn’t change the fact that this wasn’t the result St. Louis wanted, but it gives them something to hold onto ahead of Game 5.

Blues-Stars Game 5 from Enterprise Center will be Friday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Stars’ Bishop has injury scare in Game 3

1 Comment

Dallas Stars (star) goalie Ben Bishop had trouble getting up after falling awkwardly making a save during the second period of Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues.

[Airing on NBCSN — stream here]

The good news is that Bishop didn’t leave Game 3 at all. In fact, during that same frame, Bishop made one of his trademark tremendous passes to set up an Andrew Cogliano semi-breakaway, and stopped Ryan O'Reilly on a similar opportunity. Performance-wise, it’s difficult to really tell that Bishop might be dealing something, although maybe you’d make a mild argument that it had some impact on the 2-1 goal?

Maybe Bishop and the Stars dodged a bullet, and we’re merely worried about a close call.

Still, there are a few reasons to at least monitor Bishop:

  • Bishop’s injury history is undeniable.
  • As one of the largest goalies in the NHL, he’s more likely to aggravate injuries new and old. That’s the disadvantage to boasting the sort of towering frame that teams covet. He’s also 32, so Bishop’s dealt with quite a bit of wear and tear, even if you ignore his size.
  • The situation could get worse once adrenaline wears off, whether that may mean during an intermission, or possibly after Game 3 altogether.
  • In the foreseeable situation where Bishop plays hurt, it’s possible he could be less mobile. Would he be less able to move post-to-post? Might he struggle to get to loose pucks and rebounds?

On the bright side, if Bishop needs to miss time, Anton Khudobin was almost as lights-out this season as Bishop was, aside from when Bishop somehow found yet another gear toward the end of the regular season. Khudobin’s a veteran, although rust would be a consideration, as he hasn’t played since April 5.

Again, this could be concern over nothing, but it certainly looked painful. Then again, goalies can bend their bodies like Gumby, in ways that almost seem inhuman, so it might not be as bad as it looked.

Game 3 is on NBC; stream it here.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.