Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bolts lose their rock — goalie Ben Bishop (w/video)

PITTSBURGH

He has been the savior, the rock, the team's most valuable player.

Goalie Ben Bishop has lifted the Lightning on his hulking 6-foot-7 frame and carried it to the doorstep of a Stanley Cup. He is the single biggest reason it almost won it all last year and is the biggest reason it had any chance to win it this season.

Through the first 13 minutes of Friday night's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, Bishop put on his usual splendid display, showing precisely why he is one of the best goalies in the NHL.

Pad saves. Stick saves. Glove saves.

He was a wall.

But then, as sudden and calamitous as a bolt of lightning, the wall came tumbling down. And so, too, might have the Lightning's Stanley Cup dreams.

It was as heartbreaking as it was grotesque. It was as devastating as it was stunning. And this wicked turn of events just might have sabotaged the Stanley Cup from making Tampa Bay its summer vacation home.

With 7:35 left in the first period of Friday's game in Pittsburgh, Bishop landed awkwardly on his left leg while scrambling to keep yet another puck out of the net. As he writhed on the ice, the team's medical staff rushed to his side. Bishop was lifted onto a stretcher and slowly glided off the ice.

"You see a guy go out on a stretcher,'' Lightning forward Ondrej Palat said, "and that's tough to watch.''

As Bishop left the ice, you couldn't help but wonder if he was taking Tampa Bay's Cup chances with him. X-rays came back negative, but there is no word on when or if Bishop will play again this season.

"We're hoping for the best,'' Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Frankly, it's hard to imagine the Lightning winning a Cup without Bishop, one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL's top goalie. The team will now turn to highly regarded, but still rather raw 21-year-old Andrei Vasilevskiy.

"You never wants to lose Bish,'' Cooper said, "but nobody on the bench was thinking, 'Oh, we're nervous; Vasilevskiy is going in.' ''

Not to say the Lightning can't win with this Russian kid, considered a sure-fire future No. 1 goalie. He won a Stanley Cup final game last year. He performed well Friday, allowing only one goal on 24 shots in Tampa Bay's resilient 3-1 victory. But asking Vasilevskiy to beat a highly skilled Penguins team three more times and then the best team in the West four times after that, especially after rarely playing the past month, might be too much to ask.

"If we had that kind of mentality, I don't think we would have come out and played the way we did,'' Lightning forward J.T. Brown said. "Obviously, Bish is a big part of this team and it stinks to see him go down.''

Because of that, your heart breaks. Not just for Bishop, but also for the Lightning. It just doesn't seem fair what the Lightning is being asked to overcome. It's one thing to get beat by a better team. It's quite another to have the rug pulled out from under you because of a freakish injury.

"Things happen in a game and it's really disappointing,'' Lightning center Brian Boyle said. "It's upsetting to see a guy on your team go down in obvious distress.''

Yes, injuries are a part of hockey and the Stanley Cup playoffs are as much about a battle of attrition as outplaying your opponent. But what the Lightning has had to deal with this spring has been downright cruel.

Bishop's injury is just the latest crushing blow to a team that has seen an avalanche of bad luck. First, it lost one of its best defensemen, Anton Stralman, to a fractured leg. Then, as the regular-season was winding to a close, the Lightning lost captain and leading scorer Steven Stamkos to a rare blood clot. Neither star has played in these playoffs.

But the Lightning endured, getting contributions from practically everybody who wears a Lightning bolt on a sweater. However, if you had to pick one player most responsible for the Lightning's success, there is no doubt.

Ben Bishop.

He is why Tampa Bay made the playoffs. He is why it beat the Red Wings and Islanders in the first two rounds. And he's the reason why anyone gave the Lightning a puncher's chance to win the Cup. Overcoming injuries to Stamkos and Stralman are one thing. Overcoming this is another.

Is Bishop definitely done for the series? It didn't look good as he left the ice Friday night.

Does that mean the Lightning's Stanley Cup hopes are done, as well? As Bishop left the ice Friday night, it didn't look good.

Bolts lose their rock — goalie Ben Bishop (w/video) 05/13/16 [Last modified: Saturday, May 14, 2016 8:29am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Sign up for our new daily News at Noon email newsletter

    News

    The Tampa Bay Times will soon launch a daily newsletter called News at Noon. You can make sure to be among the first to receive it by signing up now.

  2. Rays morning after: Why Alex Cobb was out of the game and Alex Colome was in

    Blogs

    Alex Cobb obviously did a really good job pitching the first eight innings for the Rays on Tuesday.

    Alex Cobb said he had no problem with the decision, even though he had what would have been the Rays first complete game since May 14, 2016, in his sights.
  3. Florida beats LSU, wins first College World Series title

    College

    OMAHA, Neb. — Maybe this wasn't Florida coach Kevin O'Sullivan's best team. It is, however, his first national championship team.

    UF’s Nelson Maldonado, left, and Deacon Liput high-five after a run scores.
  4. As NCAA investigation continues, Baylor dances around sex-assault scandal

    College

    In 1996, Southern Baptist-affiliated Baylor University lifted its 151-year-old ban and allowed dancing on its Waco, Texas campus.

  5. Rays late-night bullpen shuffle: Alvarado, Pruitt down; Kolarek up

    Blogs

    The Rays shuffled their bullpen again after Tuesday's game, sending down struggling LHP Jose Alvarado along with RHP Austin Pruitt to Triple-A Durham, and turning next to LHP Adam Kolarek, who will make his major-league debut at age 28.

    Jose Alvarado allowed runs in five of his last six outings and took three losses.