Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Ben Bishop remains Lightning's rock

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — The Lightning is in trouble, still fighting to climb its way into playoff position at 14-12-3 despite boasting a goaltender with the league's best goals against average.

"Can you imagine if he wasn't?" coach Jon Cooper asked Friday of Ben Bishop. "Probably be a little nerve-wracking."

The offensively challenged Lightning might be in the league's basement if not for Bishop, 29, perhaps playing the best hockey of his career.

"He's been our most consistent player — by far," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Hasn't had a bad game yet."

Bishop's 1.95 goals-against average is tied for the NHL lead with Washington's Braden Holtby heading into tonight's matchup with the high-powered Capitals.

"Ben is trending to that upper echelon," said CBC analyst Darren Pang, a former NHL goalie. "I think he has all the makings of a guy that can win a Vezina Trophy (as the league's top goalie), he's got all the makings of a guy who can win a Stanley Cup. Win the Stanley Cup and you'll be in there as a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate.

"I think you can feel a confidence that team has in him. He doesn't go away. Some guys just fade away; they don't come back. But he doesn't do that."

Bishop, a Vezina finalist in 2014, picked up where he left off during the playoffs last season, when he had two Game 7 shutouts on the way to the Cup final. He said it's just a continued progression in his third full season as starter and credits the defense, which he calls "the best in the league.

"I don't think there's anything different, I don't feel any different," Bishop said. "I just feel like I've been getting better as the years have gone on."

Touted prospect Andrei Vasilevskiy is thought to be the Lightning's future No. 1, with speculation the team might eventually trade Bishop, who carries a $5.9 million cap hit through next season.

But giving up an established No. 1, never mind one of the best goalies in the league, won't be easy. And Bishop doesn't appear ready to give up the net to Vasilevskiy, who is playing in AHL Syracuse this weekend as the Lightning rides its hot hand. Bishop has been through it — with both the Blues and Senators he was the backup many believed would take over.

"You don't think about it," Bishop said. "…Vasy is going to be a great goalie, but he's still really young. He still needs to grow and learn the game. I think he'll do that. But right now, that's not really my focus."

The mental maturation is where Cooper and Bishop admit he has had the most growth. Bishop said that even keel has helped him when the team scored just three combined goals during his five-game losing streak as he allowed eight. The Lightning ranks 25th in scoring at 2.38 goals a game, averaging 1.7 in Bishop's 10 losses (eight in regulation).

"There will be ups and downs, but don't be too hard on yourself or high on yourself when things are going well," Bishop said. "That's the biggest thing I've learned is not ride the roller-coaster, keep it simple."

The Lightning points to its No. 3 ranking in goals against (2.21) but let's not kid ourselves, Bishop is the key reason, often bailing his team out while playing 23 of the 29 games. Take Thursday's 4-1 win over Ottawa. "In the first period, we were (awful)," Stralman said. "And he stood tall.

Stralman said Bishop reminds him of Vezina winner Henrik Lundqvist, his former teammate with the Rangers.

"He definitely has that mental edge to his game when needed the most, he's usually the best," Stralman said. "That's very similar to Hank. The bigger the challenge, the bigger his response is. He's a top-notch player."

Contact Joe Smith at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.

 
Comments
Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

Lightning-Blackhawks: Tampa Bay is killing it on penalty-killers

BRANDON — A successful penalty kill begins long before the offending Lightning player, whistled two minutes earlier for some infraction, leaves the box with the score unchanged.It begins with a detailed scouting report of the opposing team’s power pl...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

Lightning impressed with improved offense from defensemen

BRANDON — At one point during Saturday’s game against the Islanders, the Lightning was first in the NHL in points and second in points scored by its defensemen. That’s one reason the team is off to the best start in franchise history.It’s also by des...
Published: 11/20/17
Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

Lightning’s rare loss produces reality check

TAMPA — Jon Cooper stood at the podium late Saturday night to address the media after a regulation loss for only the third time this season."Let’s be honest," he said, "we’ve had one hell of a start."The loss, he added, was frustrating, even when you...
Published: 11/19/17
Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

Lightning finds its game too late, loses to Islanders

TAMPA — The firepower showed up in the third period.Yanni Gourde and Ondrej Palat scored 13 seconds apart. Gourde scored again.Suddenly it was a one-goal game, and the Lightning appeared on its way to one of those comeback wins that would be remember...
Published: 11/18/17
Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

Lightning journal: Jon Cooper thrilled with stellar start

TAMPA — If you told coach Jon Cooper his team would open the season with wins in 15 of the first 19 games, well, "I’m not sure I can sit here and say I would have predicted that," he said Saturday morning.But the Lightning did just that to lead the N...
Published: 11/18/17
Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

Roger Mooney’s takeaways from Lightning-Islanders

This is what happens when you have the best record in the league: You get the best from the other team. The Islanders came out strong and the Lightning couldn’t match it, falling behind 4-0 early in the third. For the most part, the Lightning has bee...
Published: 11/18/17
Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

Early Lightning awards: Tough call on MVP

TAMPA — It’s still way early, but if the Lightning’s record start continues, there will be a lot of hardware up for grabs. And we’re not just talking about the Stanley Cup. Nikita Kucherov has league MVP written all over him. Andrei Vasilevskiy coul...
Published: 11/18/17

Red-hot Lightning leading NHL in more than wins

Nikita Kucherov, top left, celebrates with teammate Steven Stamkos (91) after scoring against Florida Panthers goalie James Reimer. [AP photo]The Lightning (15-2-2) enters tonight’s game against the visiting Islanders (10-6-2) leading the leagu...
Published: 11/18/17
Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

Brayden Point becomes ‘the heartbeat’ of the Lightning

TAMPA — A local TV crew set up shop in front of Brayden Point’s locker stall the other day, waiting for the Lightning forward to be ready.Then, captain Steven Stamkos walked into the room for his scrum. It didn’t take long for the TV crew to change c...
Published: 11/17/17
Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

Lightning pummels Stars for fifth straight win

TAMPA — The Lightning welcomed Ben Bishop back with a classy, fitting video tribute in Thursday’s first period. The sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena gave Bishop, the greatest goalie in franchise history, a standing ovation. It was an emotional...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17