Sunday, May 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Difference in Lightning goalies lies in experience

When Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman played his 300th NHL game Thursday, we were reminded of the theory of former Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella, who said it takes blue-liners about that many games to really understand what it takes to play the position.

Hedman agreed.

"That is a good number for me," he said.

But how about for goaltenders? How many games do they need before things start to click? And how does that number factor into the disparate performances of the Lightning's Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback?

"I think the 150 (games) plateau is very important for goalies," Tampa Bay goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. "That's when they kind of figure out what the game is, what makes them good, what they need to do to have success."

So let's take stock.

Bishop, 27, has played 81 NHL games. But including games for AHL Peoria and Binghamton, he has played 255 as a professional. His stats this season: 23-6-4 with a 1.90 goals against average and .935 save percentage.

Lindback, 25, has played 79 NHL games. But he played just six games for AHL Milwaukee after coming from his native Sweden for a total of 85 as a North American pro. His stats this season: 5-10-1 with a 3.16 goals-against average and an .882 save percentage that is the league's worst for goalies with at least 15 games.

The relative lack of experience must be factored into any discussion about Lindback's progression, Jean said.

"You need time. It's a process," he said. "People say, 'Well, they all say that.' But that's the reality of it. Lindy is in the process of understanding what makes him good and what he needs to do to be good. Some games there's a stretch where it clicks, and there's a stretch where it gets off track a little bit and we have to steer him back in. That's the reality of being a young athlete, a young goalie in this league."

Lindback has spoken about finding a balance between being aggressive (he admits to at times overplaying the puck and leaving portions of the net open) and being confident enough in his positioning to play a quieter, calmer game.

Bishop has reached that point, Jean said: "He doesn't go out there to survive. He goes out there to win every game. He really understands what he needs to do to be good."

For Lindback, considering Jean's 150-game plateau, perhaps 65 more games to go.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at [email protected]

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