Bishop savours chance to help Sens enjoy success
Goaltender says trade to Ottawa has been beneficial to both him and his new team
|Goaltender Ben Bishop, who will start against the Boston Bruins tonight at Scotiabank Place, has enjoyed his time in the spotlight with the Senators in the heat of a playoff race (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
For both the 6-7 goaltender and the team he helped make its way into the Stanley Cup playoffs, especially in a time of dire need.
"I just wanted to come here and help this team," the 25-year-old Bishop said in reflecting upon the trade deadline deal that brought him to the Ottawa Senators, for whom he'll tend goal tonight against the Boston Bruins at Scotiabank Place (7:30 p.m., Sportsnet East, Team 1200).
For Bishop, tonight's matchup with the Bruins — the Northeast Division rival the Senators are most likely to face in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs — marks his return to the Ottawa net for the first time since he suffered a lower-body injury in a March 24 game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While starter Craig Anderson will no doubt be counted upon to carry the ball in the post-season, Senators head coach Paul MacLean wanted to make sure the team's backup saw at least one more game of action before the regular schedule ends on Saturday. It'll mark Bishop's 10th appearance with the Senators since his acquisition from his hometown St. Louis Blues.
After spending the majority of the season with the Peoria Rivermen, the Blues' American Hockey League affiliate, Bishop will tell you the move to Ottawa has been exactly what the doctor ordered for his own career and for the Senators, who brought him on board just four days after Anderson suffered a right-hand injury that would sideline him for nearly a month.
"That was the thing," Bishop said of the timing of his move to Ottawa. "They were still in a playoff race, so to come in and play and get some big wins against some top teams was good for me, good for my career and my confidence looking forward and getting ready for next year. It's been everything I wanted it to be."
To date, Bishop has posted a 3-2-2 record with a 2.41 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He became the Senators' go-to guy between the pipes in Anderson's absence, with the wins and points his goaltending helped produce playing a big role in keeping Ottawa's playoff hopes afloat at a most crucial time in the season.
Bishop ponders the playoff berth the Senators have now earned and takes some personal satisfaction in knowing that he helped his new team get there.
"I hadn't played (in the NHL) all year and then you get thrown into the playoff race," said Bishop, who'll sport a new Senators-themed mask for the first time tonight. "You're fighting for two points every night, so it wasn't just like any other game. It was almost like a playoff mentality. They were very important games I got to play in, not just meaningless games at the end of the year.
As for tonight's game, a Senators win or an overtime/shootout loss will sew up seventh place for Ottawa (41-29-10) — and the first-round matchup with the Bruins, who are locked into a second-place finish in the Eastern Conference. And that's exactly the result the Senators are looking for tonight as they try to fine tune their game for the post-season.
"It's going to be kind of a preview of what's to come," said Senators defenceman Matt Carkner. "That being said, we've got to get into our playoff mentality and get focused on that and put our best foot forward ... I think both teams are going to try to play their best game. I don't think either team is going to take the night off."
Actually, three of the Bruins' best players — goaltender Tim Thomas, centre Patrice Bergeron and blueliner Zdeno Chara — are getting the chance to cool their heels this evening. That, in part, is why Senators head coach Paul MacLean stopped short of declaring tonight's contest a playoff preview of sorts.
"We'd just like to win it," he said. "They're not playing three of their better players, so I'm not sure if it's really a preview or not. It's Game 81 for us and we're just trying to get a picture of our team over an 82-game schedule as to how consistent we can be. So it's important for us to come out and give ourselves a chance to win the game."
Added captain Daniel Alfredsson: "We just would like to play a solid game. I think we had a letdown against Carolina on Tuesday (a 2-1 loss which ended a four-game Ottawa winning streak), but hopefully tonight, we can come out and skate and be a little more focused. Just play solid and give ourselves a chance to win."
Around the boards
Tickets for first-round Stanley Cup playoff games at Scotiabank Place go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. The post-season schedule is expected to be released by the NHL sometime on Sunday ... With only two Canadian teams qualifying for the playoffs, CBC's Hockey Night in Canada will televise the Senators' opening-round series ... Anderson is slated to tend goal on Saturday, when the Senators close out their regular schedule against the Devils in Newark, N.J. (3 p.m., CBC, Team 1200) ... Bishop also learned today he's been named to the American Hockey League's second all-star team. In 41 appearances with Peoria and the Binghamton Senators, Bishop posted a 26-15-0 record with a 2.27 GAA, .930 save percentage and a league-high six shutouts. He was also named MVP of the AHL All-Star Classic ... Blueliner Matt Gilroy, centre Zenon Konopka and forwards Bobby Butler and Kaspars Daugavins are the Senators scratches this evening ... With Thomas back in Boston and regular backup Tuukka Rask unavailable because of injury, Anton Khudobin will make his Bruins debut between the pipes tonight.