Mac Engel

The Dallas Stars can win the Stanley Cup because of this one man

Goalie Ben Bishop was asked who is the most important player on the Dallas Stars.

“I am,” he said.

Then he laughed.

“No,” he said, “I’m kidding.”

He was kidding, and he is right.

The Dallas Stars are on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs for a plethora of reasons, whose names are Montgomery, Benn, Seguin, Klingberg, Heiskanen, Radulov, Nill and not a one of them is any bigger than their Bishop.

Dallas Stars general manager Jim Nill has had his share of flubs since he was hired in the spring of 2013, but his acquisition of Bishop ranks as the second-best move he’s made (the first is the trade to land Tyler Seguin).

The Stars defeated the Nashville Predators 2-1 in overtime in Game 6 on Monday night at the American Airlines Center to finally win a playoff series.

Stars defenseman John Klingberg blasted a shot past a screen set by Seguin over Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne’s shoulder with three minutes remaining in the first overtime to end it.

Monday was the Stars’ first playoff series win since 2016, and only their second since 2008. It only feels longer.

“I think (Tyler Seguin) said it the best, ‘Wow, is this ever fun,’” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.

From early in the afternoon ‘til nearly 11 p.m. when the game ended, Monday is the reason why the NHL’s postseason is the best in sports.

The Stars had not closed out a playoff series at home since 2008 when they needed four overtimes to defeat the San Jose Sharks in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals (one of the best games I have seen in any sport).

Monday night had a long way to go before approaching what should forever be known as The Brenden Morrow Game, but it was evidence the Stars can win the Stanley Cup.

They have the goalie.

Alas, long before drinking Shiner from The Cup they will have to defeat the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference semifinals. The Blues eliminated the Stars in the West semis in the ‘16 playoffs, which ended in a Game 7 blowout loss in Dallas.

Don’t expect the Stars to be blown out.

Other than playing like a sleeping dog in the Game 3 loss, Bishop has solidified himself as worthy of winning the Vezina Trophy as the top goalie in the NHL, for which he is one of the three finalists.

No position has haunted this franchise more than goalie. The specter of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi is hard to forget, and no one has been this team’s finest goalie, Ed Belfour.

Since Bishop was acquired from the LA Kings for a fourth round pick in the summer of 2017, he has made this team competitive in virtually every game he has played. When he was hurt late last season, the team fell apart and missed the playoffs.

Although he allowed one goal in the first period to Nashville’s Austin Watson, the Predators forward was effectively unchecked in front of the crease for the open look.

In all, Bishop stopped 47 of 48 shots, some of which were the type of chances most goalies simply can’t stop.

“I think, obviously, our best player once again was Bish’,” Klingberg said. “He just keeps us in the game.”

Say it from the highest mountain in Sweden, young man.

Nashville could have scored at least two more goals in the first period had Bishop not been in net. In the third period, the Stars defense decided to see just how good Bishop is by exposing him to four top tier chances, including multiple odd-man rushes.

Bishop stopped all of them, including whatever the Predators threw at him in the final two minutes of regulation when he faced a power play.

Other than one decent chance for the Predators in the overtime period, the Stars owned the final session as they applied constant pressure on Rinne until one finally beat him.

It has taken far longer than it should have, but the Dallas Stars are on to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

There are a lot of people to thank, but make sure to start with the most important player on the team.

He’s Ben Bishop.

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