Finally, confirmation on the injury that sidelined Ben Bishop for the entirety of Tampa Bay’s opening-round loss to Montreal — he suffered a dislocated elbow in the Bolts’ fourth from last game of the regular season against Toronto.
Per TSN’s Darren Dreger, the injury — which cost Bishop seven games in total — wasn’t severe enough to prevent the Lightning netminder from ruling out a return in the opening round. Should Tampa have extended the series beyond four, Bishop reportedly would’ve tried to get back in for either Game 5 or 6.
But following tonight’s sweep, that point is moot.
It’s going to be hard for Tampa bay not to wonder how different the outcome would’ve been with Bishop in goal. Anders Lindback was exposed against Montreal, twice getting pulled while finishing with very pedestrian numbers — an .881 save percentage and 3.91 GAA. In fact, one could argue that third-stringer Kristers Gudlevskis, who made a name for himself with Latvia at the Winter Olympics, would’ve given the Bolts a better chance at winning a game, as Gudlevskis stopped 16 of 17 shots in the Game 4 loss, good for a .941 save percentage.
But regardless of who was in goal — either Lindback or Gudlevskis — it’s clear Tampa wasn’t going to get the same goaltending it enjoyed during the regular season with Bishop. The NHL’s tallest netminder put forth a Vezina-caliber season, going 37-14-7 (4th in the NHL in wins) with a 2.23 GAA (7th), .924 save percentage (7th) and five shutouts (5th).
Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see if Bishop is named one of the three Vezina finalists, and if he can build on this year’s success next season — the final of his two-year, $4.6 million deal with the Bolts. Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2014-15.