Goalie Ben Bishop made 24 saves and recorded his third shutout of the season as the Stars captured their third victory in as many games over the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center on Thursday, December 21.
But the victory and the evening belonged to head coach Ken Hitchcock, who became the third man in NHL history to reach the 800 career win mark. The historic evening started a key string of games against Central Division foes.
The 66-year old Hitchcock joins Scotty Bowman (1,244) and Chicago bench boss Joel Quenneville (868) as the only coaches to reach 800 wins. Quenneville, in a classy move, stopped by during the post-game proceedings to congratulate his coaching colleague on the achievement.
“Congratulations from Joel means more than anything because we came up together, have so much mutual respect for each other and helped each other when we had the down and outs,” said Hitchcock, who began his second sting behind the Dallas bench this season. “Coming from him it means more than the number.”
“We got (Hitchcock) the game puck, and (captain) Jamie (Benn) had a little speech for him,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin, who contributed a pair of the goals to the triumph “It’s impressive. His resume speaks for itself. He’s a heck of a coach. He’s made a lot of players better over his time, and he’s going to make me better. Good for him. It’s awesome.”
“Yeah, that’s impressive. It’s nice to get that milestone out of the way,” said goalie Ben Bishop. “It just says a lot about the guy. He’s been around a long time. He’s coached a lot of successful teams, and when you get 800 wins, it’s just impressive.”
The play of Bishop has been reflective of the ups and downs of the Stars this season. When he plays well, the team usually wins.
“We just had a couple of frustrating losses in overtime (at Philadelphia and against Washington) the last two games, so it’s nice to keep pushing there and finally break through tonight and get the win in regulation,” said Bishop, who was signed by GM Jim Nill in the off-season.
“And we had some guys step up. With the way things have gone the last couple of games, it was nice to get some breaks couple of posts and some big blocks by the guys, especially we were up 4-0 and that power play (in the third period), I think we had four or five blocks. It just says a lot about the guys out there. It’s a big win.”
Bishop admitted he got some breaks during the game. “It was nice to get a couple posts and some big blocks by the guys,” Bishop said. “Especially when we were up 4-0 on that power play, and I think we had four or five blocks. That just says a lot about the guys that are out there. It’s a big win, and hopefully, we can do it again once more before the break.”
Dallas (20-14-3) used Hitchcock’s career highlight victory and a come from behind 4-3 triumph against visiting Nashville two nights later to move ahead of Chicago in the standings and into a wild-card spot in the Western Conference heading into the Christmas break.
Stars assistant coach Rick Wilson, who was also Hitchcock’s assistant during his first sting behind the Dallas bench (1995-2002), put the achievement in perspective.
“I think what’s really clear is the 800 wins and all of his games coaching have been built one day at a time,” said Wilson. “(Hitchcock) attacks every day like it’s a playoff game. The energy, the intensity, the details, it’s all been there since Day One. I think that’s the thing that has helped him get to 800 wins…he’s relentless.”
In addition to the Stars, Hitchcock has also been behind the benches of Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis. “I think one of the things that helped him was he really didn’t care if the players liked him or not,” said Craig Ludwig, the Stars’ color analyst who was a hard-hitting defenseman during Hitch’s initial tenure in Dallas. “He was fine if we hated him, as long as we respected him and what he was trying to do for the team.”