There aren’t all that many lucky stars to thank in Dallas these days. Fans might just count their blessings for a healthy one or two instead, in light of the recent injury to goalie Ben Bishop.
Bishop Gets Record and Then Injured
Fresh off setting a new franchise-record shutout streak against the Minnesota Wild, Bishop exited mid-game. He’s now day-to-day, joining six other injured Stars, with a league-high four on injured reserve.
Thankfully, recent-acquisition Mats Zuccarello isn’t among them. He is now day-to-day, following a hilariously tragic injury he suffered in his first game with the Stars. Zuccarello broke his arm, putting him on the shelf for an estimated four weeks, a timeline which is approaching its long-awaited conclusion as we speak.
While it’s funny enough the Stars gave up two conditional draft picks for a player who got injured right away, the irony of the situation resides in how Zuccarello had two points in that one game. It almost perfectly mimics the Bishop injury in terms of timeliness, because, just as things were going perfectly for the Stars, fate stepped in to rip the joy away.
That Kind of Stars Season
It’s been that kind of season for the Stars, with CEO Jim Lites publicly calling out Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin earlier on. Still, in spite of the public embarrassment, it kind of worked, especially with regard to Seguin who has 33 points in the 32 game since. The Stars have gone 18-12-2 then and are currently in the third spot in the Central Division.
Granted, Benn has an unimpressive 17 points in 29 games since the incident, which is below his production on the season, but you can’t win them all. Never has that been more evident than now, with Bishop getting injured just as he had been entering into the Vezina Trophy discussion as the Stars’ most valuable player.
Were it not for the injury, you’d probably think the 32-year-old goalie had been on the verge of turning back time to his days with the Tampa Bay Lightning. His .933 save percentage on the season so far is a new career high, after a few campaigns of middling play.
Not only that, but the win against the Wild had been one of the biggest of the season for the Stars. The Wild, who are currently on the outside of the playoff picture, but challenging for a spot had been chomping at the Stars’ heels. Now there’s a five-point gap between the two teams, with the Stars holding a game in hand.
Nothing is for certain though, especially with the St. Louis Blues finding themselves right between the two teams in the Central. Especially with the Stars’ latest injury to Bishop. The Blues are tied with the Stars in terms of points (79) and games played, just shy in terms of regulation and overtime wins as a tiebreaker (37 vs. 35).
Zuccarello and Bishop Due Back
Not all is lost, though. The distance between the Stars and the Wild in the standings hints at the former being able to hang on, even if they lose out on one of the top three spots in the Central to the Blues. Secondly, the Stars are starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel regarding injuries, with Zuccarello due back alongside forward Tyler Pitlick eventually. Finally, even the injury to Bishop doesn’t seem overly serious.
The actual bright side through all of this has been the resilience the Stars have shown up to this point. They know now that, push come to shove, they have the talent and wherewithal to compete, with the Stars picking up that huge road win over the Wild and going 6-2 since Zuccarello got injured. It remains to be seen how they fare without Bishop, although Anton Khudobin is one of the best backups in the NHL. So, there’s that.
It’s almost fitting how the Stars will face the Wild in Dallas in the last game of the season, the result of which can end up having huge playoff ramifications. Maybe it doesn’t actually go down to the wire and Bishop returns without any ill effects to show for the injury. Maybe he keeps his shutout streak, which hasn’t officially ended, going for a long while longer.
Stranger things have happened. This Stars season is proof of that. And there are still three weeks to go. That’s maybe not lucky, at least from the perspective of Dallas fans, but, as beat up as they’ve been, instead of seeing stars, they can finally see the finish line. Chances are good they cross it. It may not be in one piece, but it will be as a team. Considering where the Stars were, that’s almost a victory by itself.
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.