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Playoff talk? Bishop's focus solely on opening night

The Stars goaltender knows expectations are high, but he's not looking past Boston on Oct. 3

by Jeff Odom @jeffodom / DallasStars.com

FRISCO, Texas -- It's no secret that expectations have been elevated for the Dallas Stars entering the new campaign.

On the heels of missing a trip to the Western Conference Final by mere inches on a Jamie Benn wraparound shot in double overtime against the eventual champion Blues, Dallas has emerged as a popular pick to go even further this season. Perhaps, as far as raising the Stanley Cup for only the second time in franchise history.

 

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But with 82 regular season games still to come between now and any potential opening contest of a playoff series, Stars goaltender Ben Bishop has only one thing circled on his calendar at the moment: Opening night on Oct. 3 against the Bruins.

"You're not going to make the playoffs without getting through the first game of the season," Bishop said Saturday during the team's second day of training camp at Comerica Center. "So, if you start talking about the end game without focusing on what's in front of you, you're going to get nowhere."

In other words, pump the brakes a bit before looking too far ahead.

Video: Where did Stars' Ben Bishop travel to this summer?

Bishop, who finished runner-up for the Vezina Trophy last season with a .934 save percentage, 1.98 goals against average and seven shutouts, knows all too well about great expectations.

The veteran backstopped a Lightning team that fell just short in the 2015 Cup final, losing to the Blackhawks in six games. The next season, picked as a popular favorite league-wide to win it all, Tampa Bay's quest prematurely ended in the conference final at the hands of the Penguins, who wound up rallying from a 3-2 series deficit to topple the Bolts in seven games and eventually earn their first of back-to-back titles.

For Bishop, the logic is simple: You can't get to the finish line if you haven't even started the race, especially in a tight Central Division where it might be anyone's guess who winds up on top at season's end.

"If you start talking about the playoffs and whatnot without even playing the first game, I think it's kind of ridiculous," Bishop said. "If you listen to the radio, I think every team says they're going to make the playoffs, so I don't think our expectations are different than any other team's expectations. ... You know, two or three games and that's the difference now.

"I don't think you can sit here and talk about a Stanley Cup or the playoffs without even focusing on the first game of the season."

 

With new contract, Lindell happy to get camp underway

Esa Lindell has many reasons to flash his trademark smile these days -- 34.8 million of them, to be exact.

Signed to a six-year contract in the offseason that will keep the dependable blueliner in Dallas through the 2024-25 season, Lindell said he's entering the new campaign with both excitement and relief to get the extension done.

"Of course it feels great to stay here for a long time. I really enjoy playing here," he said. "I was hoping for a long deal, too, so I'm happy we got it done."

Now, it's about getting down to business in Year 2 of head coach Jim Montgomery's system.

"The biggest thing is just to get comfortable with how we played last year and just (do it) again," Lindell said. "We've got to work hard and I think how we played at the end of the season, if we keep doing that right away, we're going to be a lot better."

Video: PHI@DAL: Lindell goes between the legs on deflection

After flying under the radar a bit in his first two full seasons with the club, Lindell took centerstage at times with his effective play in 2018-19. During the Stars' first-round playoff series victory over Nashville, Montgomery referred to the unsung hero of sorts as the team's "security blanket" who "just does everything right."

Whether it was making his mark offensively -- career-best 11 goals with 21 assists -- or his prowess as a penalty killer, where he averaged a team-high 3:14 in shorthanded time per game during the regular season, Lindell emerged as an essential part of the team's lineup.

Can Lindell and the Stars build off that success? That's the goal.

"I think last year showed how close we were," he said. "We got a couple new players to the team and expectations are high, we want to make the playoffs and get a long run there. So, it's been fun these couple first days and I'm excited about the upcoming (season)."

 

Odds and ends

» Montgomery was pleased again with the team's effort on Saturday, noting the pace continues to be quicker than last year. In the first half of the session, the team worked primarily on implementing more structure on entries and offensive zone play, before focusing on their forecheck and neutral-zone forecheck in the second.

"We're quicker at everything we're doing," he said. "There's less teaching again, and it's just good. There's good energy. I think players are a lot more confident in trusting that they know what they're doing. They're just playing hard."

 

» Blake Comeau admitted he didn't watch the remaining postseason games this summer after the Stars were eliminated in the second round, choosing instead to get ready for the new season.

"This is the first year that I didn't watch much playoff hockey, and the big reason was St. Louis kept moving on," he said. "Obviously, I kept tabs on what was going on, but I didn't watch any of the games.

"I think there's there was a little bit of a frustrating feeling this summer, a little bit of anger. ... I was excited to get back out to Dallas and get going."

 

» Forward prospect Riley Damiani was held out Saturday as a precaution with a sore muscle, Montgomery said. He is expected to be back on Sunday.

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

Jeff Odom covers the Stars for DallasStars.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeffodom.

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