Bishop quite a find for hot Lightning
By Damian Cristodero
Tampa Bay Times | November 11,2013
BOSTON — For Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop, an important element of success this season has been, as he said, his ability to “see” the puck.
Perhaps, though, a more appropriate discussion would be about his ability to “find” the puck. Case in point: a glove save Bishop made Saturday on a shot from the slot by Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk.
“I looked to my right and I was screened,” the Lightning goaltender said. “I was able to look left and was able to find it. If you’re not feeling good, maybe you just go down.”
It certainly has been a feel-good season for Bishop, 26, who not only won the No. 1 job but has stats mingling with the game’s best.
His 11 victories lead the league. His 2.12 goals-against average was 10th entering Sunday, and his .927 save percentage was 11th.
During a four-game winning streak that includes Saturday’s 3-2 overtime win over the Red Wings and has the 12-4-0 Lightning atop the East, Bishop has a 1.48 goals-against average and a .953 save percentage.
Say what you want about Steven Stamkos’ 14 goals and 23 points, both of which entered Sunday tied for the league lead, Tampa Bay isn’t where it is without Bishop’s work in net.
“He’s been huge,” Stamkos said, no pun intended, considering Bishop is 6 feet 7. “He helps you win games when you’re not playing your best. To be able to count on him to give us a chance to get two points is a pretty cool feeling.”
That’s a big reason we’re off to this start. You want to ride that wave as long as you can.”
“Ben is stopping all the pucks he should,” coach Jon Cooper said, “and he’s mixing in a few he shouldn’t.”
What goes unnoticed, Cooper said, is Bishop’s ability to play the puck: “I throw him up there with (Phoenix and former Lightning goalie) Mike Smith as potentially the top two or three guys who play the puck in this league.”
“He’s kind of like a third defenseman,” defenseman Matt Carle said. “He’s able to make plays, and that’s a huge help for us.”
Bishop played just 45 games in three previous seasons with the Blues and Senators. But with time came experience and maturity, he said.
Given a chance to compete with Anders Lindback for the starting job, Bishop, acquired in April from Ottawa for Cory Conacher, had “a good summer” of training. And though Cooper said Bishop always worked hard, he now practices with the intensity with which he plays.
“I think he came with the tag that wasn’t always the case,” Cooper said.
“You learn how to prepare at this level,” Bishop said. “You learn what works for you.”
With back-to-back games today against the Bruins at TD Garden and Tuesday at Montreal, there is no guarantee Bishop will play against Boston.
The Bruins beat Tampa Bay twice this season by a combined score of 8-1. Bishop was pulled in the 5-0 loss Oct. 19 at Tampa after allowing four goals on 17 shots, though he got little help from his sluggish teammates.
Bishop said he is not looking for personal redemption, just competition.
“You always want to play against the best teams,” he said. “Boston is one of the best teams out there, and you want to beat those guys.”
For the Lightning which, including the 2011 playoffs, has lost eight straight games at Boston and 10 of 11, that would be something to see.
Lightning at Bruins
When/where: 1; TD Garden, Boston
TV/radio: Sun Sports; 620-AM
Key stats: Lightning C Steven Stamkos’ six-game goal streak, with seven tallies, is the league’s longest active and one off his career best. ? Tampa Bay has killed 37 of its past 39 penalties. The Bruins have killed 18 straight. ? Boston D Torey Krug entered Sunday leading all rookies with three power-play goals and six power-play points. ? The Bruins have outscored opponents 18-9 in first periods. ? Zdeno Chara leads Boston with an average 24:40 of ice time.