The Tampa Bay Lightning had already clinched a playoff spot before the puck dropped for their Tuesday night game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they are still trying to catch the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic Division and are trying to keep themselves out of a wild card slot.
Considering the top two teams in the Eastern Conference are the Boston Bruins and Pittsburgh Penguins, who have both won the Stanley Cup in the last five years and are both loaded with talent, avoiding them for as long as possible is important.
For those reasons, there’s an argument to be made that Ben Bishop should have been in the net Tuesday night, and I can understand why he started. But early in the first period, the worst fear for Lightning fans came true – Bishop went down and didn’t get back up for quite a while. He had only faced three shots and never returned after being taken off the ice with what was later determined to be an upper-body injury.
Losing Bishop for the playoffs would mean everything to the Lightning. He is without a doubt the main reason why the Lightning are even playing in the postseason. He has played night in and night out and has made an argument for himself to be in the conversation for the Vezina Trophy. It’s asking your goaltender a lot to start three games in four days, but Bishop recently did that and only allowed six goals over the stretch.
Listed at 6-foot-7, Bishop has been one of the faces of change in the appearance of goaltenders. With pads continuously getting smaller, Bishop has the enormous frame to make up for it. However, while many big guys sacrifice speed for size, that isn’t the case for Bishop and he has transformed into an elite goaltender this season, even though he entered this year with only 45 NHL games under his belt.
If Bishop’s injury is serious, the Lightning’s chances for a Stanley Cup are over. Anders Lindback is a solid backup and Kristers Gudlevskis – the Latvian goalie who nearly beat Canada in the 2014 Olympics – is with the Lightning’s AHL affiliate, but losing Bishop would just be too much to overcome.