As the 2013 player grades series continues, it is time to evaluate the first goaltender — Ben Bishop, acquired at the trade deadline from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for promising young forward Cory Conacher.
While this series has been working its way up with skaters that took the ice for the Lightning in the 2012-2013 regular season, peppering the goaltenders in seems like the best way to go about things rather then starting with them or waiting until the end and doing them all at once.
While Bishop only started nine games for the Lightning and my criteria for this series was 10, I've made an exception because, by all accounts, Bishop is expected to play a very large role for the Lightning moving forward in a tandem with big Swedish netminder Anders Lindback.
The timing also seems especially relevant given that Bishop's former coach has just recently been hired by the Lightning to coach goaltending and video for the AHL Syracuse Crunch.
In nine total games played with the Bolts, Bishop went 3-4-1 with a GAA of 2.99 (well worse than Matheiu Garon and Anders Lindback) and a save percentage of .917 (signifitcantly better than either other Lightning netminder). That seems to indicate that, while overall Bishop was allowing a lot of goals, he was doing so while facing an inordinately high amount of shots.
In reality, Bishop faced a very high 33.55 shots per game in his nine games played, as opposed to 26.75 for Lindback and 23.72 for Garon.
If the Lightning can do a better job next season under head coach Jon Cooper of limiting shots against — even to levels similar for the games played by Lindback and Garon — Bishop's .917 save percentage would bring the team GAA down to a more manageable level where the explosive offense of the Lightning (3rd in goals scored per game in 2013) could create separation from opposing teams and string together some wins.
For the most part, Bishop was solid despite facing so much rubber, and from here looks to have the inside track to the "1A" goalie position for Tampa next season. The folks at Yahoo! Sports agree, selecting Bishop to represent the Lightning in their top 30 starting NHL goalies rankings, although their ranking of Bishop (29th of 30) isn't exactly a strong endorsement.
After just six appearances for the club – including a stellar 45-save shutout in his Lightning debut against the Carolina Hurricanes — the Tampa Bay front office had seen enough to extend Bishop for two more seasons, at a higher dollar value than either Anders Lindback or Mathieu Garon, revealing their beliefs that Bishop can become the legitimate number one goalie Lightning fans have craved since Nikolai Khabibulin became a victim of the last lockout.
For his efforts in 2013, I grade Ben Bishop at a B.
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