FRISCO, Texas -- The Stars, at their heart, are a team based on goaltending.
Ben Bishop was runner-up for the Vezina Trophy last season and Dallas finished second to the Islanders for the Jennings Trophy, awarded to the team that allows the fewest goals.
Outside of that, award season was what you might call sparse.
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This year, Dallas is once again within shouting distance of the Jennings (the Stars are second to Boston's 2.42 at 2.54 goals against average), but it might be tougher for an individual to win the Vezina, given to the player voted as the top goaltender. That's because the balance between Bishop and teammate Anton Khudobin has become more even, and the two could be as close as they have ever been in their goaltending tandem.
The Stars on Saturday gave Khudobin a huge start against the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, and he came through with 26 saves in what would become a 4-3 shootout loss. It was a statement that the coaching staff felt the team's best chance to win was with their "backup" in net, and that's a pretty strong declaration.
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"We have full confidence in both of them," Stars interim coach Rick Bowness said. "Dobby has been on fire and he deserved that start."
Khudobin is 5-0-2 in his last seven starts, while Bishop is 3-3-1. Both are good, but Khudobin has been just a little bit better. That has allowed Khudobin to move up to tops in the league in save percentage at .930 and third in goals against average at 2.23.
Bishop isn't far back at 2.49 (10th) and .921 (eighth), but those numbers are behind the incredibly high ceiling he set for himself last season when he led the NHL in save percentage at .934 and was second in goals against average at 1.98. The 33-year-old is in the middle of a six-year contract and started all 13 playoff games last season, so he is the No. 1 goalie.
"Bish is the guy, there's no question about that. He is the guy, and that will never be a debate," Bowness said. "But when Dobby is playing as well as he has, he deserves to play, it's as simple as that. Don't overcomplicate it and don't overanalyze it. Dobby has played great, and let's just leave it at that."
While we all love a good goalie controversy, the Stars would rather look at it as a good goalie collaboration. Dallas plays five of the next six games at home (and 10 of the next 14), and both Bishop and Khudobin are better at home than they are on the road. The Stars as a team allow 2.23 goals per game on home ice and 2.82 on the road.
"We want to get the numbers back down," Bowness said. "We know how we've got to play whether it's home or road. There's only one way to play, and that's the right way."
That said, it seems easier to play the right way at home. Dallas averages 33.1 shots on goal for and 30.1 against when playing at home for a plus-3.0 shot differential. The numbers on the road are 27.6 shots on goal for and 33.4 against for a shot differential of minus-5.8. That's a significant difference.
Bishop is 16-8-5 on the road with a 2.95 and .907. He's 13-9-2 at home with a 2.19 GAA and .930 save percentage. Khudobin's numbers provide an even greater difference. He's 10-6-3 on the road with a 2.57 GAA and .927 save percentage. At home, he's 6-1-0 with a 1.37 GAA and a .946 save percentage.
That could portend some good days ahead, but the Stars have to play well as a team in front of both to make sure the numbers are sustainable going forward. That said, this is a team based on goaltending and it is a team that's goaltending has been its best at American Airlines Center.
Winning the Vezina Trophy might be tougher this year for Bishop. Winning the Jennings? Well, that seems an award the Stars really could bring home.
Stars (37-21-7) vs. Oilers (34-23-8)
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: American Airlines Center
TV: FOX Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 96.7-FM, 1310-AM
Don't miss your chance to see the Stars battle the Edmonton Oilers when they return home to American Airlines Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. The first 5,000 fans receive a limited-edition poster presented by Dr Pepper. Get your tickets now!
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, and listen to his podcast.