Tampa Bay Lightning Season Forecast: Goalie Edition

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#30 Ben Bishop
2013 (NHL): 11-9-1-2.67-.920
2013 (AHL): 8-3-2-2.59-.928

Apr 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The taller of Tampa’s twin tower goaltenders arrived at last season’s trade deadline.

Going the other way was the ultra popular Cory Conacher, which sent a lot of Lightning fans into a tantrum, but then Bishop stopped 45 shots to shut out the Carolina Hurricanes and all was right with the world. Well, at least for a few days.

A lot of Bishop’s detractors have noted that, excluding that shutout, his numbers with the Bolts aren’t very impressive. Which is a little bit ridiculous – if you exclude Henrik Lundqvist‘s shutouts, his numbers are sure to take a dip as well. Or, if you exclude the game against Penguins in which Bishop allowed 6 goals, his numbers will be nice and shiny. Point being: everything counts, the good and the bad.

But in reality, you can throw all the numbers out the window. Because the truth of the matter is we really don’t know how Bishop will perform in Tampa Bay. He was solid with the Bolts last season – at his best he was spectacular, and at his worst he was not very good.  But the sample size is way too small to really make a judgement.

What to expect this season? Personally, I expect him to be solid. It’s the defense in front of him that I worry about(and by defense I mean all five players, not two). Bishop should provide a save percentage, at worst, in the .905-.910 range, and at best he’ll stick around the .920 he put up last year. If he does that, and the Lightning can do their job in front of him, the playoffs aren’t completely a pipe dream.

But it’s important to keep expectations in check. It’s one thing to expect Bishop to be solid, it’s another to expect him to be Dominik Hasek (Hasek, for the record, probably would take this team to the playoffs and beyond – those who remember him will agree). Bishop’s season will be a success if he gives the team a chance to win every night. He’s not expected to win games, he’s just expected not to lose them.

Personally, I think the biggest difference between Bishop and Lindback is in the mental game. Lindback appears to crack under pressure; Bishop doesn’t. Bishop also appears to be the feistier competitor of the two. These factors, moreso than athletic ability or potential, are the reasons why I think Bishop will emerge as the team’s starter at some point this season.

 
Best case scenario: Is driven by competition, puts up good numbers while his counterpart does the same. Goaltending debate wages on, everybody wins.

Worst case scenario: Fails to deliver, puts up horrendous numbers while his counterpart does the same. Goaltending debate wages on, everybody loses.

Forecast: Holds an edge over Lindback all season, but doesn’t start as many games as a true undisputed #1. 50 games, .915% range, 2.6-2.8 GAA.

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