Following last Tuesday’s win over the Montreal Canadians, the Tampa Bay Lightning have clinched a playoff spot and their chance for a run at the Stanley Cup. With knowing a playoff spot is guaranteed, head coach John Cooper has many decisions to face to keep the Lightning in good position for the postseason. Mainly, the decision of who plays in net for the remaining regular season games. Does the Lightning rest their starting goaltender, Ben Bishop, who has been tending to a wrist injury and has never played in the NHL postseason? Or do you play the less than stellar, Anders Lindback?
Anders Lindback and his time with the Tampa Bay Lightning has proven to be less hopeful than fans or the team may have expected. The few opportunities that Lindback has been given, his performance has failed to rival that of teammate Ben Bishop. Recently, a small spark of hope for Lindback presented itself in the game versus the Pittsburgh Penguins. Lindback helped keep the Lightning in the game with 25 saves, until James Neal’s goal in overtime. Though a great performance by Lindback, with the rest of the team, it still is not enough to look over Ben Bishop.
Ben Bishop is approaching his first NHL postseason where he will be a team’s starting goalie. All season, he has fought through injury and lack of support to keep the Tampa Bay Lightning in the hunt for a spot in the postseason. He now has the opportunity to rest or continue to play in the regular season. Saturday against the Dallas Stars, and despite a loss to Calgary last Thursday, John Cooper decided to put Ben Bishop in net. In the first forty seconds of play, Bishop allowed Benn and the Star’s first goal. Bishop then allowed two more goals before the close of the first period. Is John Cooper making the right decision to continue to play Ben Bishop?
Bishop, when compared to other high caliber starting goalies, has had it a bit easier than others. He was given days of rest every few games, and typically performed above and beyond. However, since returning from the Olympic break, Bishop has shown a lack of control with rebound shots, and overall allowing very stoppable goals. With the playoffs a week and a half away, Bishop experiencing this slump now should all but help him in the postseason. Needing to be able to play back to back with no relief to advance the team is a test he will need to be able to stand up to. Wrist injury or not, Bishop will be the Tampa Bay Lightning’s starting goalie, and will need to fight through any mental or physical obstacles he may have. Granted, smart play and less turn overs from the rest of the team will also help alleviate some of these issue’s for Bishop. After the Dallas Stars game Bishop said, "I feel alright. It will be nice to have couple days off. It’s just that time of year. I’m ready to go whenever."
Despite this recent string of losses Bishop is ready to fight, to play, to win. The rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning need stand up and follow suit. Cooper needs to continue to push Bishop, along with the rest of the team, to ensure that he will be absolutely ready to go for the postseason run.