TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning will begin their first trip to the Stanley Cup Playoffs in three years without their starting goaltender.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper, asked who his starting goaltender would be, said simply, "Not Ben Bishop."
Though Cooper wouldn't confirm it, Anders Lindback will get his third start in four games since Bishop was lost to an upper-body injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs on April 8. Lindback was perfect in 54 minutes of relief in that game and has stopped 77 of 79 shots for a .975 save percentage since Bishop's injury.
The performance earned Lindback the NHL's First Star of the week and gave him some confidence after a difficult season when he had a save percentage of .891.
"It's something you learn playing hockey; you always have to believe in yourself and believe in what you're doing," Lindback said. "Just work hard, and things will eventually turn around for you. It's just a mindset."
Cooper offered no update on Bishop's status, so it's possible Lindback could get more than one start. Although he did finish the season strong, he is aware it means little now that the Lightning have reached the playoffs.
The Canadiens said they feel Lindback presents the same challenge to them as Bishop because they are big goalies who take up a lot of net and move extremely well. Bishop is 6-foot-7; Lindback is 6-foot-6.
"They both have great size, the way they play is similar," Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said. "He's coming in with confidence because of the way he's played the last two weeks with them, but we all understand that the playoffs, this is a new adventure, this is a new season.
"We're going to have to put a lot of pressure on him."
In Cooper's mind, the Lightning have become a team that has relied less on its goaltending as the season has gone on. The loss of Bishop might have been crippling earlier this season; it is less devastating now.
"Before the Olympic break I would say we were winning a lot of games because of our goaltending. That was just a flat-out fact. Ben Bishop really carried us," Cooper said. "I'd say after the Olympic break we won a lot of games because of our team and the way we played. Naturally you need your goalie to make saves."
Cooper, without saying Lindback's name, expressed the utmost confidence in his ability to do that by citing the Lightning's final regular season game, a 1-0 shootout win at the Washington Capitals on Sunday that gave Tampa Bay home-ice advantage in the series.
"Look at the game against Washington, they really didn't have that many scoring chances against us, but in a 0-0 game, he makes a backdoor save that was insane," Cooper said. "If they score, they win the game and this press conference is in Montreal right now."