TAMPA — The tallest goalie in NHL history isn’t quite ready to call an end to the days of sub-six-foot netminders. However, he concedes there’s a reason smaller guys will have a tougher chance of making it.
“I don’t know if it’ll be the end of the era, but I think you see taller guys that can be just as athletic as the smaller guys,” said Tampa Bay’s 6-foot-7 starter, Ben Bishop. “It seems to be the way it’s trending here.
“You look at [Blackhawks backup Scott Darling], he’s 6-6, and that guy can move pretty well. You see bigger guys that can move just as well as the smaller guys, and that’s probably why teams have started going in that direction.”
Chicago’s starter, Corey Crawford, is no shrimp either, at 6-foot-2. In fact, of the four starters to reach the conference finals, Henrik Lundqvist was the shortest at a mere 6-foot-1. (Anaheim’s Frederik Andersen is listed at 6-foot-3.)
So, given the size of goalies today compared to the past, and given the drop in scoring compared to the past, what does Bishop think of the idea of making the nets bigger?
“Let’s make ‘em smaller,” he joked.
But then, more seriously: “I don’t know, I guess they could. It’s just going to lead more goals. A couple of games ago, we won 6-5. What do you want the scores to be? 12-10?”
Well, not all the time.
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The New York Rangers were one win away from back-to-back appearances in the Stanley Cup Final. However, there will be no return trip this year.
They lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending a post-season that saw Henrik Lundqvist often as the backbone, their best player, on many nights. In the first round against Pittsburgh, each of the five games were decided by one goal, including three in a row by 2-1 decisions.
Against Washington, the Rangers managed to come back from a 3-1 series deficit. Again, every game decided by one goal.
It can be argued New York was flirting with an earlier exit, had it not been for timely goals, but mostly for the play of Lundqvist, who posted a .928 save percentage in the playoffs. The only goalie to play 10 or more games in this post-season and post a better save percentage was Braden Holtby.
Despite giving up two third-period goals — an Alex Killorn backhander through traffic and an Ondrej Palat wrist shot off the rush — Lundqvist was sharp. His collection of saves included a great glove stop on Jason Garrison, and a quick pad save on Tyler Johnson to keep it scoreless in the second period.
“I think we all expected him to do that; he’s a great goaltender,” said Johnson of Lundqvist to NHL.com.
“There’s no denying that. We knew we would just have to keep getting opportunities and we knew he was going to save a lot of those, so it was just a matter of time for us to get try to get more opportunities than he could save. Luckily, we were able to.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning have now dispatched the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers in these Stanley Cup playoffs. So long, Original Six.
They are now off to the Stanley Cup Final, after beating the Rangers 2-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.
Going into Madison Square Garden, against a team that had not lost a Game 7 in six previous opportunities, or lost a Game 7 on home ice in its history, was apparently not a problem for the Lightning.
“We’ve just kind of got that group,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “I don’t know if we’re so young and dumb and don’t know any better … it’s hard to explain.
“But they just answer the challenge. Every time we as a staff go in and challenge them, they respond.”
After battling through two scoreless periods, the Lightning finally solved Henrik Lundqvist with a pair of third-period goals and Tampa Bay’s goalie Ben Bishop, who had been hot and cold in this series, was perfect in a 22-save shutout performance.
“Well, we didn’t give them much,” said Bishop.
“Last game they had some open looks, some odd-man rushes and a couple of seeing-eye pucks. And tonight the guys were blocking shots, giving up their bodies, sacrificing, and it makes a big difference when the guys are out there doing that, and it makes it really easy on me.”