Should the Lightning be worried about Ben Bishop?


Ben Bishop is 28 years old and has had one impressive season as a starting NHL goalie.

That, of course, came last season, when he went 37-14-7 with a .924 save percentage for the Tampa Bay Lightning. And for that, he was deservedly named a Vezina Trophy finalist.

But before last season he remained very much unproven. The 85th overall pick in the 2005 draft, he’d only started 38 NHL games in five seasons for the Lightning, Senators, and Blues.

Which is why he came into 2014-15 still somewhat unproven.

“I had one really good year this year — I think I’ve still got to prove myself,” Bishop said, per the Tampa Bay Times. “I want to be consistent year in and year out. I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.

“I want to be even better this year.”

Except he hasn’t been. After 33 appearances, his save percentage sits at .910, ranking him in the bottom half of regular starters.

Moreover, at even strength, among the 29 goalies that have played at least 1,000 minutes, his save percentage ranks better than just four of his counterparts — Cam Ward, Ben Scrivens, Darcy Kuemper, and Mike Smith.

Those last three goalies — Scrivens, Kuemper, and Smith — in case you haven’t been reading PHT on a regular basis, have probably been the most maligned in the NHL this season. And at the moment, Bishop is a lot closer to them in terms of his stats than he is to the likes of Pekka Rinne and Carey Price.

Now, look, we’re not here to suggest that Bishop is going to become the next Jim Carey. All goalies go through rough patches. But, in all likelihood, Bishop will need to be better if the Lightning are going to make an impact in the playoffs. Currently, Tampa Bay ranks first in goal-scoring (that’s really good) and 15th in goals-against (that’s pretty mediocre).

The Lightning are in Boston to play the Bruins this evening. They’ve yet to announce a starting goalie.

Related: Flyers chase Nabokov as veteran’s struggles continue

What’s wrong with Wild? Yeo says ‘everything’


When losses really start to blur together, it probably gets pretty tough to find different ways to spin things.

Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo seemed to have trouble finding a specific explanation following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Nashville Predators, as the Pioneer Press’ Chad Graff reports.

“When you’re losing games the way we are, everything is an issue,” Yeo said. “It’s been something different every game … We’re spinning our tires (looking for a solution).”

Even the red-hot Predators seemed to take notice of the Wild’s issues, as they told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo that they noticed how “low energy” Minnesota was after playing well in the first period.

Ryan Suter’s out there as much as any skater in the NHL, yet he doesn’t know what to make of this crisis, noting that he’s never been through anything like this.

If there’s one trend through this wide variety of defeats (Minnesota only has two wins since Dec. 16), it’s been poor goaltending, something that really stood out as Pekka Rinne won his fifth game in a row and stopped 36 out of 37 shots for Nashville. Niklas Backstrom hasn’t really had any more luck than Darcy Kuemper when it comes to winning games for the Wild, as his record dropped to 5-5-3 on the season with a putrid .893 save percentage.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that goaltending can make one coach look like a genius or a dunce, but either way, things are getting awfully uncomfortable for Yeo and the Wild.

Heck, they’re not even looking good during their fights.

Cam Ward is probably not the answer for Minnesota


The Minnesota Wild have inquired about Carolina goalie Cam Ward, according to Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.

And according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, they’re not denying it.

But is that a path GM Chuck Fletcher should go down?

True, the Wild have serious issues between the pipes — issues that may end up costing them a playoff spot.

And yes, Ward could be had for next to nothing, given the not-going-to-the-playoffs Hurricanes would surely love to be rid of his contract, which features a $6.3 million cap hit that runs through next season. The ‘Canes might even be willing to assume some of that hit. They’d be foolish not to consider it.

The only problem for the Wild? It’s sort of a big one. Ward isn’t a very good NHL goalie, and save for a few spurts here and there (he’s actually been in decent form recently), hasn’t been for a while now.

This season, among netminders that have played 1,000 or more minutes, the 30-year-old former Conn Smythe Trophy winner ranks 24th out of 28 in five-on-five save percentage, only slightly better than Darcy Kuemper, who ranks 27th.

We’d like to say we had a brilliant idea for Fletcher; alas, we don’t. He’s in a tough spot. Jhonas Enroth, another goalie that’s been linked to the Wild, hasn’t exactly been lights out in Buffalo. Though, at the very least, his cap hit is only $1.25 million and he’s not under contract past this season.

The best plan, as hard as it might be for frustrated fans to accept, may just be to gamble that one of Kuemper or Niklas Backstrom can figure it out.

The Wild host Nashville on Saturday.

(Video) PHT Extra: Focus turns to Fletcher as Wild’s goaltending crisis continues


How much blame does Wild GM Chuck Fletcher deserve for Minnesota’s ongoing goaltending issues?

This is a team, after all, that ended the summer with three potential starters — one, Darcy Kuemper, who was short on experience; another, Niklas Backstrom, who hasn’t been consistently good in some time now; and a third, Josh Harding, who has serious health concerns.

Related: Wild reportedly gauging goalie trade market

When it rains: Wild put Kuemper on IR, recall Curry


We’ve talked plenty lately about Minnesota’s goalie woes and, given what happened this morning, now expect those talks to continue.

The Wild put Darcy Kuemper on injured reserve Thursday, and called up journeyman John Curry from AHL Iowa as a replacement. The decision to put Kuemper on IR comes less than 24 hours after a terrible Wednesday practice in which head coach Mike Yeo flipped out on his players, then watched Kuemper come up lame.

Shortly Kuemper visited the team physician, Yeo said his No. 1 netminder would be out “a little bit” with an undisclosed ailment.

This is, obviously, puts the Wild in a major predicament. Kuemper hasn’t played well this year, yet still managed to keep a pretty tight hold on the starting gig due to Niklas Backstrom’s health issues and lack of effectiveness when healthy. The 36-year-old Finn has made just 10 starts this year and his last two appearances have been in relief of Kuemper — including Saturday’s 7-1 shellacking at Dallas, in which Backstrom allowed three goals on 14 shots.

Bleak outlook? Yup. And what’s more, Minnesota has some real tough games coming up.

The Wild host the ‘Hawks tonight, Nashville on Saturday, then head out for a three-game road swing that includes games in Chicago and Pittsburgh.

Related: Yeo: ‘That goal in overtime can’t go in’