Third Time’s A Charm? Bishop Finding Solace in Tampa Bay

By Matt Paglia

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When the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired goaltender Ben Bishop from the Ottawa Senators last April, they knew they were getting a steal. The blue chip prospect out of Denver was passed over his previous two teams due to depth within the organization. While the Blues have been steady between the pipes with new acquisition Ryan Miller, the same can’t be said for the slumping Sens.

St. Louis took the 6’7” netminder 85th overall in the 2005 NHL entry draft. Known for his awareness and ability to use his big frame to get in front of the puck, it took Bishop a few seasons to show off his impressive skill set.  During his first two seasons with Peoria of the American League, Bishop bounced between there and the NHL, making 13 starts for the Blues over that span. In his third full season as a starter in Peoria 2010-2011, the lanky Bishop began to thrive, posting a 17-14-2 record to go along with a .914 save percentage. The next season saw the former University of Maine star increase his save percentage to .928 and cut his goals against by nearly a quarter to 2.26.

During the 2011-2012 season, the Blues were amongst the elite clubs in the west thanks to one of the best goaltending duos in the league with Brian Elliot and Jaroslav Halak. With the crease situation all but solidified in the gateway to the west, the Blues shipped Bishop to Ottawa in exchange for a second round pick in 2013 (Tommy Vannelli).

It only took Ottawa 26 games before they sent Bishop packing yet again despite posting a .915 save percentage and 2.46 goals-against average. Once again, he was out of the spotlight due to a veteran Craig Anderson and an up-and-coming star in Robin Lehner. The sunny beaches of Tampa were calling his name.

This season, Ottawa’s duo has allowed 246 total goals with a .909 save percentage and find themselves out of the playoff picture. Bishop, meanwhile, is soaking up the sun and quickly winning the hearts of Tampa fan (that’s not a typo). While the media may not recognize him in an American market, hockey personnel certainly do. Bishop has carried the team with 37 wins and a 2.23 goals-against average to go along with a .924 save percentage, all three landing him in the top 10 in the NHL.

What makes Bishop different is his awareness of the game. He is always in position and can read a play develop before opposing skaters come out of their own end. His massive frame allows him to swallow the net while giving his poke check more validity than most. Where Tampa’s new protégé loses points is his puck play, where he sometimes looks like a chicken running around with his head cut off behind the net.

While he was snubbed from the 2014 USA Men’s Olympic roster, that hasn’t kept Bishop from working just as hard after the Olympic break. With the team poised for a return to the playoffs for just the second time in the past six seasons, Bishop will be counted on to help guide a young defence in front of him.

The face of the team will always be led by captain Steven Stamkos, but even a king needs a Bishop to help take out some of the pawns along the way.

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