Saturday, November 18, 2017
Tampa Bay Lightning

Lightning starts with two No. 1 goalies

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TAMPA — Generally in the NHL, the competition for a No. 1 goalie position is a pressure-packed affair that can consume a training camp.

But the battle between Anders Lindback and Ben Bishop for the Lightning's top spot is more collaboration than competition, more learning experience than test of skill.

That is because Tampa Bay has declared Lindback and Bishop will not start the season as No. 1 and No. 2 but as equals.

"We're probably going to start the season by sharing the load and see where it goes from there," goaltenders coach Frantz Jean said Thursday at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Said coach Jon Cooper: "People are going to say whoever gets the opening-game start must be their starting goalie. Well, he's starting that night."

Cooper said the best scenario is for a No. 1 to emerge "because that's a good sign he's playing really well and you're probably winning." But he isn't opposed to a seasonlong tandem: "If that's our winning formula, then that's how we do it."

It will be a highly scrutinized process. Lindback has played just 62 NHL games, Bishop 45.

Lindback, 25, had positioning woes last season — "In parts of the season, I was too much everywhere" — and was 10-10-1 with a 2.90 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.

Bishop, 26, an accomplished stick-handler acquired in April from the Senators for Cory Conacher, was 3-4-1 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .917 save percentage. He lost the No. 1 job playing for the United States at the world championship in May.

Add that this is GM Steve Yzerman's fourth try to get the goaltending right and that the best the goaltending has been during Jean's three-year watch is 21st in the league, and the drama potential is high.

On the other hand, "the skill set is there," Jean said of the 6-foot-7 Bishop — the league's tallest goalie — and the 6-6 Lindback. "Their physical ability and their overall skill is at … an NHL level, there's no doubt about it. What's important is to gain experience. You can't teach experience, you have to live it, so it's going to be to go through our season and manage the situation properly."

That means grooming both goalies while not immediately subjecting either to the physical and mental demands of being No. 1. The goalies said their relationship is solid and they are in it together.

As Lindback joked, "At the end of the day, it's the coach who puts the goalie in the net. If there's someone to get mad at, it's the coach, I guess."

Seriously, though, "It's good for us to push each other to get better," Lindback said.

Still, neither is conceding playing time.

"I wasn't happy the way last season turned out. I know I can do better," said Lindback, whose summer workout program emphasized whole-body strength training. "Last year gave me a lot of experience. I just have to keep building on that and prove myself."

Said Bishop: "You just have to go out there today and tomorrow and work hard and get better each day and let your game do the talking."

   
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