The Lightning will begin the year with two starting goalies: Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback.
And, according to head coach Jon Cooper, they might just stick with it.
“People are going to say whoever gets the opening-game start must be their starting goalie. Well, he’s starting that night,” Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times, adding that he’s perfectly fine with a season-long timeshare.
“If that’s our winning formula,” Cooped explained, “then that’s how we do it.”
Lindback, 25, was supposed to have taken the starting job last season. Bolts GM Steve Yzerman acquired the lanky Swede from Nashville and didn’t provide him with much competition, save veteran journeyman Mathieu Garon.
Despite that, Lindback faltered and finished with pedestrian numbers: 10-10-1, 2.90 GAA and a .902 save percentage.
That played a part in Yzerman dealing Cory Conacher to Ottawa at the deadline in exchange for Bishop.
The 6-foot-7 netminder came boasting talent and was outstanding in relief of Sens starter Craig Anderson, but he too struggled in Tampa, finishing with a decent 9-3-4 record but a bloated GAA (2.99).
What’s more, Bishop played poorly for Team USA at the World Hockey Championships and lost his starting gig to 19-year-old John Gibson, who has yet to make his NHL debut.
As such, the Bolts are going to employ a “whoever plays best” strategy in deciding a starter for this season, and are encouraging competition in the crease.
“Their physical ability and their overall skill is at … an NHL level, there’s no doubt about it. What’s important is to gain experience,” said Tampa Bay goalie coach Frantz Jean. “You can’t teach experience, you have to live it, so it’s going to be to go through our season and manage the situation properly.”