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'Business trip': Bishop hopes to spoil playoff party for hometown Blues

The Stars goaltender is a St. Louis boy who once rooted against Dallas in the postseason - but not for the next two weeks

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

It was a fond memory for young Ben Bishop.

A lifelong St. Louis sports fan, he remembers being back at the formerly named Savvis Center for a second-round playoff series in 2001. It was a huge moment for Blues fans as the home team was about to sweep the Dallas Stars and move on to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 15 seasons.

The Stars had won the Cup in 1999 and went back to the Final in 2000, so they were pretty much hated. And the goaltending battle was a great one, as Blues backstop Roman Turek was beating his old teammate, Ed Belfour.

 

[ROUND 2 SCHEDULE: Dates set for Stars-Blues series beginning with Game 1 on Thursday]

 

Being a goalie, 15-year-old Ben Bishop loved giving it to the opposition netminder, and he definitely let Belfour have it a few times.

"I remember going to playoff games and screaming 'Belllll-four.' He had one the best names for that chant," Bishop said. "I remember the last 10 minutes, so it's pretty ironic that I'm going back as that goalie."

Ben Bishop is a St. Louis boy -- but not for the next two weeks.

Video: The Franchise: Ben Bishop's return to Texas

The 32-year-old goalie moved to the Gateway City from Denver before he was even a year old. His dad started a construction company that still thrives and eventually opened up a restaurant, where the Bishops all meet up on holidays. Young Ben lives in St. Louis in the offseason and often is at "Bishop's Post."

"St. Louis has always been home, and I'm lucky enough that most all of my cousins and aunts and uncles all live in St. Louis," Bishop said back in January. "When you have your immediate family and your extended family here, it makes it all feel more homey."

Just not now. As the Stars prepare for a second-round playoff series with the Blues, Bishop knows there will be some divided loyalties.

"It'll be interesting," Bishop said. "I'll obviously have some conflicted friends and family. Once the game starts, though, it's just hockey."

Well, yes and no. It's pretty intense hockey for two teams that have battled hard this year. And it will be hockey where Bishop is at the center of pretty much everything. He is a finalist for the Vezina Trophy this season, and has been the MVP for Dallas.

Bishop led the NHL with a .934 save percentage and set a franchise record with that mark. His 1.98 goals against average was second-best in the NHL. In six playoff games, he ranks second in GAA at 1.90 and second in save percentage at .945.

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Bishop shuts the door on Granlund

It's been a good year.

"We're not here without Bish, simple as that," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said.

Bishop has had a challenging climb. He was passed by young goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in Tampa Bay two years ago and was traded away to Los Angeles. A trade was then worked out from the Kings to Dallas before he hit free agency, as he felt the Stars would be a good fit.

 

[HEY HEIKA MAILBAG: Does goaltending experience give Stars advantage over Blues?]

 

Bishop signed a six-year contract that averages $4.9 million, and has set out to prove he can be one of the best goalies in the NHL. While he has battled several injuries, he's in the middle of a really good run right now.

Bishop was named one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy for the third time in his career, also getting named in 2014 and 2016 with the Lightning. He said that finding that same rhythm with a new team is a nice feeling.

"It's kind of neat to have it be done now with two different teams," Bishop said. "The first year (in Dallas), we got to know each other. But this year, the (defense) and myself and even forwards, there's great chemistry."

Video: NSH@DAL, Gm6: Bishop denies Sissons on breakaway

And that provides some great thoughts. The Stars have been lacking a knockout goalie while struggling to make the playoffs just three times in the previous 10 seasons. Now, they seem to be finding their stride at the right time.

"He is, if not the highest reason, the top two reasons of why we're in this position right now," center Tyler Seguin said, alluding to backup goalie Anton Khudobin as the other reason. "He's been our backbone all year. He's our best player, and we have a lot of confidence in him."

While captain Jamie Benn added when told about Bishop being a Vezina finalist: "You can't say it's really a surprise. We all know how good Bish is and that's a great nomination to get. Well deserved, he's put in a lot of hard work and been through a little bit of adversity this year. Just goes to show the professional that he is and the competitor he is."

Bishop said there is another trophy other than the Vezina he's more focused on right now, and it's poetic that the potential path to a Stanley Cup takes him through his hometown. It was here that he started the work ethic that is now paying off for him, it was here he worked for his dad's company, it was here he started his goaltending career.

It was here, he learned to focus.

"It will be fun to go see friends and family," he said. "But it's really just a business trip."


 

Round 2, Game 1: Dallas Stars at St. Louis Blues

Where: Enterprise Center, St. Louis
When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m. CT
TV: NBCSN
Radio: WBAP 820-AM

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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