Friday, July 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Ben Bishop competes against Andrei Vasilevskiy, but teaches him too

TAMPA

Andrei Vasilevskiy started every workout this summer in Ottawa with 10-15 minutes of puck-handling practice.

"I'm trying to be like 'Bish,' " he said, smiling.

And "Bish," Lightning starter Ben Bishop, is happy to help by sharing his expertise as one of the league's best puck-moving goaltenders.

"We're like one little goalie team," Vasilevskiy said. "He's my teacher, like my coach."

It could be awkward for Bishop, 29, and Vasilevskiy, 22, the future No. 1 whose time might be coming sooner than later. Bishop, the best goalie in franchise history, is in the final year of his deal (at $5.95 million). Vasilevskiy signed a three-year extension in July at $3.5 million.

The salary cap-strapped Lightning can't protect both in June's expansion draft with the new Las Vegas team entering the league, sparking speculation that Bishop could get moved by March's trade deadline. Vasilevskiy is already expected to get a bigger share of the starts than last season, ideally 30 or more, though Bishop will likely be in net tonight against the Panthers at Amalie Arena.

But the two also share a strong relationship, a mentor-pupil partnership. And Bishop doesn't seem to mind grooming his potential successor, especially if it means the good friends can hoist the Stanley Cup in June.

"It's fun to watch each other and encourage each other," Bishop said. "You want each guy to do well because it makes it easier on you."

• • •

Bishop remembers being in Vasilevskiy's shoes.

Both in St. Louis, which drafted him in the third round in 2005, and Ottawa, Bishop was battling for playing time, hoping to land a starting gig. Along the way, veterans like Manny Legace, Chris Mason and Ty Conklin gave him some tricks to the trade.

"Those guys really helped me out, showed me the way," Bishop said. "They were really good to me. You don't forget that."

In a sense, Bishop is paying it forward. Vasilevskiy, a first-round pick in 2012, has learned mostly from watching Bishop. He gleans how Bishop prepares for starts, how he handles the mental grind, especially in the playoff pressure cooker.

Bishop will give Vasilevskiy tips on certain shooters. In turn, Bishop picked up aspects from Vasilevskiy, like his post play.

" 'Vasy' looks up to Bish," Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean said. "Bish helps Vasy. It's really a good relationship between, both mentor and mentoree type relationship. It helps the team."

The Lightning has needed both goalies the past two seasons. That includes a coming-of-age moment for Vasilevskiy in last season's Eastern Conference final, starting six of the seven games after Bishop suffered an ankle injury early in Game 1. Vasilevskiy racked up 30-plus saves in each of his starts, 48 in Game 3.

"I remember I turned to him just before a team meal (in Pittsburgh), I asked him, 'How are you with all of this?' " Jean said. "He says, 'I'm having the time of my life.' "

• • •

It's not like Bishop is ready to just hand Vasilevskiy the net.

Bishop hasn't ruled out the possibility, however remote, of signing an extension next summer as an unrestricted free agent. A fierce and confident competitor, Bishop has proven himself, a two-time Vezina Trophy finalist that holds many Lightning franchise records.

"He's one of the best goalies in the NHL," Vasilevskiy said.

Vasilevskiy showed faith by signing a three-year extension in July, one year removed from restricted free agency.

"The best thing to happen to me in my hockey life," he said.

What could top that? When Vasilevskiy becomes a No. 1.

"I think I'm ready, but I can't say 100 percent," Vasilevskiy said. "This season will show us."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

Comments
Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

Hereís our Mount Rushmore for the Lightning

The Lightning just celebrated its 25th anniversary season — long enough to have a Mount Rushmore.Here it is:Marty St. Louis (2000-14)St. Louis is the all-time franchise leader in points and the only Lightning player to make the Hall of Fame aft...
Published: 07/13/18
Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

Lightning names AHLís Derek Lalonde as new assistant

The Lightning has completed Jon Cooper's coaching staff for the upcoming season, announcing on Thursday the hiring of Derek Lalonde, who spent the last two seasons as head coach of the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild.Lalonde, 45, has steadily work...
Published: 07/12/18
Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

Lightning re-signs left wing Adam Erne to one-year contract

A busy few weeks of re-signing players continued Wednesday, as the Lightning brought back the last of their restricted free agents, signing left wing Adam Erne to a one-year, $800,000 contract for 2018-19.Erne, 23, was a second-round pick in 2013 and...
Published: 07/11/18
Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

Lightning locks up Nikita Kucherov with 8-year, $76 million extension

CLEARWATER — Nikita Kucherov could have waited a year, allowing the demand for a top young NHL scorer to escalate as he hit restricted free agency next summer.But when the Lightning made him an offer to become the highest-paid player in the tea...
Published: 07/10/18
Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

Lightning signs Nikita Kucherov to richest contract in team history

The Lightning took another step toward securing its future Tuesday by announcing that right wing Nikita Kucherov will sign the richest contract in franchise history.Kucherov's eight-year contract extension will pay him an average of $9.5 million star...
Published: 07/10/18
Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

Kucherov signing helps Lightning finish what it started

TAMPA — The Erik Karlsson sweepstakes hasn't ended for the Lightning.But the Nikita Kucherov sweepstakes is over before it began.The Lightning has locked up its star right winger. An eight-year extension that begins in the 2019-20 season will p...
Published: 07/10/18
Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

Meet the girl behind the Marty St. Louis sign

ST. PETERSBURG — When the call from the Hall came, there she was again.The girl with the "I (heart) U Marty" sign, in the newspaper again, this time on the cover of the June 27 Tampa Bay Times sports section. She was frozen in time, doing what ...
Published: 07/07/18
What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

What might Lightning give up to get Erik Karlsson?

TAMPA — Shortly after the excitement of the real possibility Thursday night that the Lightning could be trading for defenseman Erik Karlsson, fans quickly came to an uneasy place: What exactly would Tampa Bay give up to get the two-time Norris ...
Published: 07/06/18
The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

The Lightning advantage in Erik Karlsson trade talks

He wants to be here.This is the place.In case you'd missed it amid the gloom and doom of a Lightning season that came up short again, there are still people who want to play in Tampa Bay.One of them is Erik Sven Gunnar Karlsson of Landsbro, Sweden. T...
Published: 07/06/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Will the Lightning trade for Erik Karlsson?

Rick Stroud returns from vacation to discuss reports that the Lightning will acquire star defenseman Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators.He also talks about reaction to Jameis Winston's three-game suspension, the Rays' crazy home stand and which p...
Published: 07/06/18