It isn’t the Game 6 outcome the Dallas Stars had in mind. Faced with the opportunity to move on to Round 3, the Stars are now instead facing a Game 7 on the road potentially without Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie Ben Bishop, who left in the third of the 4-1 defeat. One would think it would be cause for concern, but his status for Game 7 really shouldn’t be.
Good and Bad Bishop News
On the positive side, the Stars have faced the adversity of a potential Bishop injury before. Just two months ago in fact. And, that time, it ended up being little to worry about as Bishop only missed two games before returning to the lineup, going 3-1 with a .950 save percentage down the stretch to lead the Stars to the playoffs.
On the negative side, after the St. Louis Blues chased Bishop in Game 6, there aren’t two games to miss. There’s just Game 7. It all comes down to this for the Stars and, despite Anton Khudobin being one of the best backups in the NHL, a healthy Bishop remains one of their biggest keys to victory.
To be clear, there’s every reason to believe Bishop will end up playing in the decisive final game of the second-round series on Tuesday night. After all, he initially stayed in Game 6 after Blues defenseman Colton Parayko’s third-period blast felled him.
Granted, the Blues scored on that very play… and then on their next shot to round out the game’s scoring, prompting understandable second guesses with regard to Bishop’s health. Nevertheless, assuming Bishop’s upper body remains intact until Game 7, he understands the gravity of the situation and that he can’t afford to miss it. So, if he doesn’t end up playing, it will only be because Stars fans will have much more to worry about with regard to their goalie than a single game… which, admittedly, may not seem all that reassuring.
Bishop Pulled as Precaution
If it’s any comfort at all, Stars coach Jim Montgomery likely didn’t pull Bishop because he was injured or played badly. Neither of the two goals in question were his fault. Jaden Schwartz’s 3-1 tally came when he was down and Samuel Blais’ came on an odd-man rush 33 seconds later. It’s just the timing that doesn’t do Bishop any favors from an optics perspective.
However, with the score 4-1 at the midway point of the third, Montgomery made what had to be an easy call. It’s effectively a lost game at that juncture. Bishop in nets won’t lead to a victory, least of all when he isn’t even 100 percent.
So, you pull him as a precautionary measure to assess any damage done and prevent any needless exposure to potential injury later on in the game. It’s the smart move. And, according to Montgomery, the damage done is thankfully superficial in nature.
Give Montgomery full marks here. It was the right time to pull Bishop. There’s no point dwelling on the play in question and whether or not the referees should have blown the play dead. It’s time to move on now.
As Stars fans are now unfortunately aware, time doesn’t stop just because it’s what is most convenient. It goes on. And now it’s time to focus on a winner-take-all Game 7. It’s happening with or without a completely healthy Bishop. You can be sure of that… and that he’ll most likely end up playing and then play as best as he humanly can. It’s whether or not his best will be good enough that is the only concern. Time will tell.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.