Wednesday, February 21, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning hopes bye week won't dull goalies' sharpness

DALLAS — You'd think of all players, goalies would be the most negatively impacted by this season's bye week.

Five days without facing a shot can't be easy for a position so dependent on feel and split-second reaction.

But Lightning goalie Ben Bishop didn't seem fazed in Friday's first practice back.

"I felt like I never missed a beat," he said.

The biggest reason for the Lightning's recent run — it entered Saturday's game against the Stars at American Airlines Arena having won three of its past four — has been its goaltending. Bishop had allowed three goals combined in his previous three starts. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves in a 2-1 shootout loss in Minnesota on Feb. 10.

"They've been our best players," coach Jon Cooper said.

But judging from how goaltenders have responded after the bye, picking up where they left off is easier said than done. Just ask the Panthers' James Reimer, who was pulled in his first post-bye start after allowing three goals on 14 shots. Rangers star Henrik Lundqvist had an awful .789 save percentage in his first three starts after his break. Former Lightning goalie Mike Smith was at .878 for Arizona.

"I honestly didn't feel very good," Smith said. "It took me a period probably to get back into it. I think as a goalie — and this is coming from my experience — I personally don't like more than a day off at a time. When you get three, four in a row, I think you kind of lose the rhythm you're in, maybe. Just feeling the puck, handling the puck, all that kind of plays into it. So I think it's definitely difficult."

The Lightning has no margin for error as it fights for its playoff life. So any slipup from its goaltenders could be crushing, especially for its confidence.

"I always say, you can't have a good team unless you have a good goalie," center Tyler Johnson said. "We're extremely fortunate we have two of the best. When they're on, they're playing well, it makes everything so much easier. It makes it easier to relax and play your game. You know you have them back there to really bail you out when you need."

Lightning goalie coach Frantz Jean said the bye week may actually help Bishop and Vasilevskiy. There have been goalies that performed well after the bye, including the Senators' Mike Condon (.943 save percentage in his first three starts), the Islanders' Thomas Greiss and the Flyers' Steve Mason (.927).

"I think it's going to be good to be able to step away for a couple days," Jean said. "You get away from the game physically, mentally. It can kind of rejuvenate you a little bit. We'll see. We've never experienced it, really, except the All-Star break.

"But I think it might be a good thing after all."

For the Lightning, it better.

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

Comments
Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

Ryan Callahan regaining his confidence for Lightning

When the Lightning put wing Ryan Callahan back on the power play a month ago, there were many reasons.With Ondrej Palat suffering a lower-body injury Jan. 20, Tampa Bay needed a replacement who was fearless in front of the net, and a relentless puck ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

Nikita Kucherov’s trick shot sends Lightning past Capitals

WASHINGTON — There was some lighthearted debate in the Lightning dressing room Tuesday night about whether the latest dazzling breakaway move by Nikita Kucherov was a deliberate fake or a slip off the stick.Some teammates playfully gave the All...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Could Detroit’s Mike Green be next domino to fall at deadline?

Could Detroit’s Mike Green be next domino to fall at deadline?

The Red Wings have started wheeling and dealing, shipping goalie Petr Mrazek to the Flyers for a package of conditional draft picks.That has shifted focus to a potential Lightning target, Red Wings defenseman Mike Green, who is expected to be moved b...
Published: 02/20/18
Trade rumors can weigh on NHL players as deadline approaches

Trade rumors can weigh on NHL players as deadline approaches

WASHINGTON — Tyler Johnson was as good as gone.Or so it seemed.The scuttlebutt around last year's trade deadline was that the Lightning center could be the piece headed elsewhere to land a top-four defenseman. Maybe Nashville? St. Louis?Then th...
Published: 02/19/18
Better ‘D’ starts at home with Lightning

Better ‘D’ starts at home with Lightning

TAMPA – The Lightning still might land that top tier defenseman it certainly needs by the Feb. 26 trade deadline. But if that player was wearing a Tampa Bay sweater Saturday, would the outcome against the Devils have been any different?The Ligh...
Published: 02/19/18
Rumor mill: What Lightning might do at trade deadline

Rumor mill: What Lightning might do at trade deadline

Reports and rumors involving the Lightning leading up to the NHL trade deadline on Feb. 26:Feb. 17A smaller move could pay big dividendsIf you look at the history of recent Stanley Cup champions, their pivotal moves were subtle, not splashy, the Time...
Published: 02/19/18
Devils’ Wood gets 2 games for boarding Namestnikov

Devils’ Wood gets 2 games for boarding Namestnikov

Devils forward Miles Wood was suspended two games without pay for his boarding penalty Saturday night against Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov during the second period of the Devils 4-3 victory.The hit knocked Namestnikov into the boards ...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/19/18
Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

TAMPA — When it comes to the trade deadline, everyone wants the big names. They dream of blockbusters.Lightning fans would love Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson or Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Maybe even Rangers wing Rick Nash.But if you ...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

TAMPA — Lightning D Jake Dotchin was scratched Saturday against the Devils, making it the fifth time in six games that he did not play."Obviously the playing time is down a bit," Dotchin said after the morning skate. "I just got to keep working...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18
Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — It was a game for Cold War nostalgia and present-day geopolitical angst, for feisty, post-whistle scraps in the corners and for cheap jokes on Twitter. It was a game drenched in history at the start and simmering with ill fee...
Published: 02/17/18
Updated: 02/18/18