Dallas Stars’ very own Ben Bishop currently leads the league in save percentage. Yes, even above Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Dallas Stars are in a Very Good Place right now: they are on their way to the playoffs, they are scoring, they are winning, and goalie Ben Bishop is on a roll. Hard work pays off and that’s something the Stars know very well, but if there’s one (1) player that always brings his best, is Benjamin Manning Bishop III.
The Stars’ main goalie is the current leader in the NHL in save percentage with .932, just slightly above one of Tampa’s biggest menaces: Andrei Vasilevskiy (.931). At the time of the announcement, both Bishop and Vasilevskiy were tied in second place for most shutouts this season with six, with Vegas’ Marc-André Fleury leading with eight. Earlier this week, Bishop was announced as the second star of the week thanks to his two consecutive shutouts, which later became three.
Like any other goalie, Bishop has had his low lows this season, but nothing that could break his spirit. In fact, he is on a career high in save percentage, with his second best being .926 back in 2015-2016, when he was still with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Bishop was heavily criticized a few months back when the Stars were doing Not So Good and didn’t even hold a spot in the Wildcard. While constructive criticism is always valid, most of the “critics” were more like direct attacks towards the goalie, and here’s the thing: the goalie can’t carry the whole team on his back. You can’t expect him to do that. It’s a team, not a one-man battle.
Let’s take a minor break here and take a quick look at the New York Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist, the prime example of “you can’t expect your goalie to carry the whole team”. There’s a lot of pressure on goalies, even more when their teammates on the blue line are not focused. That, and starting the same goalie game, after game, after game, will eventually wear him out. Which is exactly what New York has done with Henrik.
Now, back with Bishop.
Yes, of course he has flaws and he has had bad nights – but it’s not all on him. Let’s face it: the Stars’ defense tends to fluctuate between Really Good and Barely There. Mix that with an overused Bishop who is also injury-prone [case in point: he got a lower body injury during the game against the Minnesota Wild… while this piece was being written], and you have the worst cocktail. It’s all about balance: give Bishop and Anton Khudobin the same chances, and the Stars’ goaltending could be a dangerous one – add good defense and this team could be unstoppable. Something to consider, Monty and company.
Luckily, the Stars learn from their mistakes: the defense has woken up, Khudobin is getting well-deserved chances on the net, and the whole team is motivated now that they are back on track to make it to the playoffs. Now let’s keep Bishop in a bubble so he stays healthy.
There are many aspects that shouldn’t be ignored if the Stars want to keep their spot until the playoffs begin: don’t fall into a comfortable position, that spot can be easily taken away. Don’t lose motivation, and treat your goalies right (or, in other words: don’t wear them out. You’ll need them in the playoffs. That’s a fact).