After watching Ben Bishop get knocked out of action three times in the last month, Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper admitted he’s worried about his No. 1 netminder.
“Clearly there is a concern,” Cooper said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “To start games and not finish when I’m not the one giving him the hook … he’s having health issues, for sure.”
Here’s more, from the Times:
That concern played itself out before Saturday’s 4-2 win over the Red Wings. Cooper said he might warm up Bishop, Cedrick Desjardins and Kristers Gudlevskis (called up from AHL Syracuse as insurance) before naming a tandem. As it turned out, only Bishop and Gudlevskis warmed up, and Bishop got the start.
None of that diminished the worry about Bishop, who left the Jan. 5 game at Edmonton with a wrist injury, the Jan. 30 game at Ottawa after he was inadvertently kicked in the head by teammate Nikita Kucherov and Thursday against the Maple Leafs with an upper-body injury.
“Ben doesn’t pull himself out of games because he doesn’t want to play,” Cooper said. “He’s pulling himself out of games because it’s extremely painful to play. So the Olympic break (which begins today) is probably going to help him.”
One wonders if the rigors of being a No. 1 goalie are catching up to Bishop. The NHL’s tallest netminder had no experience carrying the load prior to this year — in fact, Bishop had never appeared in more than 22 games in any of his first four seasons in the league. This year, he hit the 22 game mark by early December.
It’ll be really interesting to see how Tampa Bay and Cooper handle Bishop’s minutes and health post-Olympics. The 27-year-old has Vezina-worthy numbers (28-8-4, 1.99 GAA, .933 save percentage) and, given the injury to Steve Stamkos, could very well be the Lightning’s MVP, so he’s vitally important to the club’s success.
The club will probably look to give Bishop some rest down the stretch, but it won’t be easy. Backup goalie Anders Lindback is out with an ankle injury and while Tampa is in a good spot standings-wise, things promise to get tight after the break. The Bolts are only seven points up on eighth-place Detroit in the playoff chase and will begin their post-Olympic schedule with a tough four-game road swing through Nashville, Dallas, Colorado and St. Louis.