Do or die; Tampa Bay Lightning at Montreal Canadiens game 4 preview

Christian Petersen

In more of a op-ed column than game day preview that lists all the in's and out's facing this game, John goes after the goalie fixation that some fans may be lost on that ignores th larger failings by Tampa Bay.

Where:  Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec
When: 7 PM EDT | Tickets: Check availability
Television: Fox Sports Florida, NHL Network (US), CBC, RDS, | Radio: 970 AM WFLA
Opponent Coverage: All Habs, Habs Eyes on the Prize

Anders Lindback will start in goal tonight as the Tampa Bay Lightning hope to stave off elimination from the 2014 NHL playoffs.  This probably doesn't sit well with some Bolts fans, as Lindback hasn't been an all-world goalie during the first three games of the series.  He also hasn't been the reason why the Lightning have been getting beaten, though I think it's safe to say he's been part of it. There are defenses of Lindback that I can make here, like continued grumbling about a goalie coach who doesn't teach to his goalie's strengths, Lindy being out of practice for the large part by way of Jon Cooper running Ben Bishop into the ground, and the fact that - at certain times - Lindback's been the only reason that these games weren't more of a blowout in favor of the bleu, blanc, et rouge.

Yet I invoked Ben Bishop's name in the above paragraph and you probably lost interest in any and all reference to Anders Lindback.  Same shit, different day really because that's the defense of running Bish into the ground; it's Ben Bishop and he's been playing oh my god! We need Bishop back!  We need Bishop to start!

Yeah, well, that's a flaw to the season.  It's also a flawed logic that elimination and a series sweep would be avoided if Big Ben were to start instead of Lindback.

(Authors Note: I'm pretty sure that at this point in the season, Raw Charge regulars may be tired of me going op-ed and feature writing for a preview instead of giving details about the game for the night...  Sorry, fans, but this is where I'm going with this.  I don't think I need to elaborate on power play percentage and penalty kill efficiency, possession data, blocked shots, hits and all the dramatic rhetoric of line combos and individual drama. It does neglect the rest of the team, sure, but I've got a point to make here.)

At one point or another, all eggs went into one basket for the Lightning and fans got tunnel vision from it - the Bolts win with Ben Bishop in net.  The Bolts put forth an effort with Ben Bishop starting between the pipes.  Ben Bishop should have been on the USA Olympic team and Ben Bishop did not stop being Tampa Bay's #1 goalie when he sprained his wrist.  The thought here, and you can see it from fans and other NHL team fans too, is that everything gets corrected with Ben Bishop in goal.

It doesn't, though.

I'm a fan of Bishop but it's important to remember that he's human.  It's important to remember he had been playing with a sprained wrist since January and it showed in his game - he wasn't the same goalie as earlier in the season.  If he comes back now, or serves in mop-up duty in the waning minutes of this possible elimination game, it's not dominant Ben Bishop getting minutes, it's double-injury Ben Bishop being rushed back into the fray.

Bishop partook in practice this morning.  Erik Erlendsson pointed it out on Twitter not just through text but with a picture too.  But Bishop isn't the guy who will have to score on Carey Price, he's not the guy who has to play solid defense and do a better job controlling the puck and moving it from zone to zone.  He's not the guy who initiates a swarming frenzy in the Montreal zone that baffles and dazes Les Habitants for a moment and leads to a gaggle of scoring chance.  This is the same for Anders Lindback; he's the guy on the ice who is charged specifically with stopping the puck, not doing everything.  Goalies can make the difference and we saw that in game one when Lindy saved the Bolts collective ass for the majority of the game as he seemed to be the only guy who could do his job. We've seen Bishop pull that act before in the regular season too.  In the end (in game 1 and elsewhere in this series) it doesn't come down to the goalie as-so-much the guys in front of him.  An injured Bishop is just as much a liability as you may or may not have labeled Anders Lindback at this point, but neither goalie is as much a liability as a Tampa Bay Lightning team that has gotten away from its own game and gotten lost in the hostile confines of Bell Centre.

Hostile confines or not, Tampa Bay has won games this season in Montreal.  The only difference, as I pointed out in the game 3 preview, is that there's more of a sideshow now tied to the game than there was before.

Lindback starts and the Bolts are on the brink.  While the effort by Anders Lindback is going to be under the microscope in the end, just remember that if the guys in front of him are those charged with the majority of the effort on ice.  Who is in and who is out be damned, this team has won games missing just about everyone from the lineup.  They must do it again here, or erase their regular-season accomplishments in the face of adversity.

Other Game Coverage:

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