The Tampa Bay Lightning entered the playoffs in a nightmarish situation. Ben Bishop, their starting goaltender and (in my opinion) team MVP, was hurt. Even with home-ice advantage in the first round, the Montreal Canadiens had the upper hand when the puck was dropped to begin the series.
Now, after two straight losses in their own barn to the Canadiens, something has to change for the Lightning if they want to make a miraculous comeback. Coming back from down 2-0 in a series is difficult, but coming back from down 2-0 when you’ve lost the first two games at home is nearly impossible.
Anders Lindback got the call in between the pipes for the first two games with Bishop sidelined, but he hasn’t done much with the opportunity. After allowing five goals in Game 1, albeit on 44 shots, he allowed three more in Game 2 before being yanked. The Lightning being down 2-0 in the series shouldn’t be put on Lindback. He didn’t help the cause, but the Lightning just haven’t gotten enough shots through to Carey Price during their first two games.
So after Bishop and Lindback, who do the Lightning have to turn to? Enter Kristers Gudlevskis.
Does the name sound familiar? It should if you watched the Olympics. Gudlevskis is the Latvian goaltender who stopped 55 of 57 shots against Canada and almost led his country to one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
I personally don’t think Gudlevskis is better than Lindback, but that doesn’t mean Lightning head coach Jon Cooper shouldn’t make the move. A goaltending change will always send a spark through the locker room and with the next two games being in a different building it may give the Lightning players the feeling that it’s a new beginning. Sometimes a team just responds better in front of a backup. That wasn’t the case with Lindback, but maybe it will be with Gudlevskis.
He plays a radical style and, as we all saw by the Canadiens’ fourth goal on Friday night, can get caught out of position and allow some weak goals. But with a radical style comes the games like the one he had against Canada. Think about Dominic Hasek; he was radical but found a way to control it. If Gudlevskis can find the Hasek-esque gray area between radical and controlled, he may be able to rejuvenate his team.
The Lightning are young and inexperienced — it’s going to take a lot for them to pull off a comeback, but Gudlevskis should be the one in between the pipes to start their potential turn around in Game 3.
After giving up eight goals in two games, Lindback should be done for the playoffs. Give Gudlevskis a shot, and just maybe the Lightning can come back to Tampa Bay with the series even at two games apiece.