TAMPA — You could tell Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is in a groove when he thwarted a Wild flurry with some flair Thursday night.
Bishop gloved a Jason Pominville shot onto his stick, then calmly flicked it back into his glove, the most stylish of his 25 saves.
"He's feeling the vibe right now," coach Jon Cooper said. "I like that he's calm in the net. He's stopping the ones he should and some of the ones he probably shouldn't. I think in that moment, he let everybody know, he's feeling it, and it's fun to watch. You want your team to be like that, to have a little swag going. I'm a big fan of it."
Bishop, 26, has reason to show some swag, having won his first five starts of the season (with a 1.57 goals-against average) and taking an early hold of the Lightning's No. 1 job.
Tampa Bay planned to alternate goalies this season, and Anders Lindback will still get his share of opportunities, too. But, for now, the Lightning (5-2-0) will ride the hot hand of Bishop, who is expected to make his sixth start in the past seven games tonight against the Bruins at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"It's nice. It's what you work this hard for," Bishop said. "And that's what I've been saying, when you get a chance, you've got to do your job."
Bishop, acquired from the Senators in April for forward Cory Conacher, is getting rewarded for all the work he put in over the summer, goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said. Bishop, 6 feet 7 and with just 50 games of NHL experience, is playing with a lot of confidence, Jean said, playing a sound, simple game that allows him to read plays and use his size to his advantage.
Bishop is also a talented puck handler, which is a huge help to the defensemen who can get open for a breakout pass as opposed to worrying about a forechecker bearing down on them. "It's like having a third defenseman out there, almost," defenseman Matt Carle said.
The Lightning feels fortunate to have two quality goalies to lean on, Cooper said. Lindback (0-2, 4.07 GAA) made his two starts against the Bruins and Penguins, and Cooper said he played well, making it tough to keep sitting him.
" 'Lindy' has been unreal in the locker room. There's not an ounce of time where he's not working," Cooper said. "You've got to feel for him, because he's a competitor, and he's a professional, and he wants to play. But he knows there's 75 more games left to go and we're running through a time right now where we don't have a lot of back-to-backs (games). Coming in November, he's going to see games, and we're going to need him."
But Cooper said Bishop has given the Lightning what it has needed: "a chance to win every night." Bishop has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his starts, and none in the first period.
"It's great knowing that you kind of have that rock back there when you make mistakes," center Steven Stamkos said.
"(Bishop's) confidence is probably sky high right now. It's kind of that safety blanket, especially on the penalty kill. He's made some unbelievable saves. So we're just trying to ride him out as long as we can."
PRACTICE NOTES: Right wing Marty St. Louis and center Valtteri Filppula did not practice Friday due to body maintenance, but both are expected to play tonight. Cooper said Filppula "tweaked something" Thursday but sat out as a precaution. "No cause for alarm," he said.