clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2015 NHL Playoffs: Ben Bishop is having a better playoffs than you think

And no, it's not just because of the shutout in Game 7 to eliminate the Detroit Red Wings.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Take a gander at overall, all-strengths save percentage for goaltenders in these 2015 NHL Playoffs and you might think Ben Bishop is having a fairly mediocre playoffs, especially excluding an outstanding performance in net in the Tampa Bay Lightning Game 7 win over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round.

Bishop sits at a respectable .922, 13th in the NHL. Behind his 1st round counterpart, Petr Mrazek (.925) and well behind the presumptive Vezina and Hart Trophy winner whom he will face in Round 2, Carey Price (.939).

Those numbers were boosted by the Game 7, 31-save shutout, of course. Prior to that performance it was easy to find commentary like this:

Or, prominent local columnists calling for the 6'7 goaltender to "stand tall" (get it?).

Let's not pretend that Ben Bishop didn't give up some truly awful goals in the series. This one comes to mind right away:

99 times out of 100 there, though, that puck doesn't end up in the net. Major flub, yes. Indicative of a larger problem with Bishop's mental state or ability to stop pucks moving forward? Not a chance.

Dig a little deeper -- and really, I mean just a little -- with Ben Bishop's numbers and you'l see he has a damn good .9464 save percentage at 5v5. That's good for 3rd among goaltenders in the playoffs; 2nd if you discount the now-eliminated Craig Anderson. Only Carey Price has stopped pucks at a better rate at even strength than Bishop did in the first round. Through 6 games -- minus the Game 7 shutout -- Bishop's ESSV% was at .9341, so it's not like one great performance is lifting him up.

There are two places where Ben Bishop struggled in Round 1 vs. the Detroit Red Wings. The first is on the penalty kill, which, as a unit, has struggled all season long, something that has been well-documented here. His save percentage dips to .8529 when you look only at shorthanded numbers.

Detroit struggled at times on the power play but their puck movement was usually decent and they were able to beat him a handful of times with nice plays in and around the slot. Forcing lateral movement and impeding vision are the two most important strategies for beating a goaltender and the Wings did both especially well on their power play. Some of this blame lies with the penalty kill unit as a whole, which really struggled with stopping cross-ice passes and making simple clears.

The other area where Bishop struggled was with what War on Ice defines as a "High Danger" shot. (See their full breakdown of high/medium/low danger here.) Tampa Bay did not excel at preventing these types of shots, and Ben Bishop did what he could but ultimately stopped just 79.17% of these "high danger" (i.e., directly in front of and very close to the net) shots at 5v5. To his credit, he was perfect on low-danger shots and near perfect (.9730) on those from the medium-danger zone at 5v5.

The big takeaway? Bishop has actually played  really well, especially when Tampa Bay keeps the game at 5v5, and he's been outstanding at snuffing out low-to-medium danger opportunities. Shorthanded and high-danger shots allowed is a blemish on the team, not on the goaltender. If the Bolts can stay disciplined and keep out of the box while doing a little better at limiting those especially good scoring chances from right in front of the net, we'll see more of Game 7 Ben Bishop and less of "awkward own goal" Ben Bishop in Round 2, which bodes well for the Lightning.