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In the Cage: Dissecting Bishop's value in Tampa Bay

Thursday, 04.04.2013 / 12:00 PM
Justin Goldman  - NHL.com Correspondent

Every Thursday during the season, Justin Goldman, the Director of Goalie Scouting for McKeen's Hockey and founder of The Goalie Guild, will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy goaltenders in NHL.com's weekly segment: "In the Cage." From updated goalie rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Goldman will be your fantasy goalie expert all season long.

When the Tampa Bay Lightning acquired Anders Lindback from the Nashville Predators, most poolies realized Lindback, who had only 38 games of NHL experience behind Pekka Rinne, would need some time to get comfortable playing under the pressure of an elevated role on a very different type of team.

Because of this, we strategically placed him 25th overall in our initial Top-30 fantasy goalie rankings.

Lindback had a few stretches of solid play, but more often than not, he was struggling to adjust. He went 4-1-0 with a 2.80 goals-against average and .914 save percentage in his first five games, but 3-3-1 with a 3.56 GAA and .872 save percentage in his next nine appearances.

The ankle injury he suffered was unfortunate timing -- Lindback had posted a 2.04 GAA and .933 save percentage in the seven games prior to getting hurt (3-3-0). Had he not been injured, maybe the Lightning wouldn't have felt the urge to acquire another big backup with starter upside.

But when things finally escalated a few hours before Wednesday's NHL Trade Deadline, it was Ben Bishop that landed in Tampa Bay. He was one of the five backups we targeted as potential trade bait in last week's article, and sure enough, as many as six teams were reportedly interested in his services.

A restricted free agent at the end of this season, Bishop joins the Lightning with a golden opportunity to earn a new contract, one that would see him battle Lindback for the starting job next season.

Currently owned in just 37 percent of Yahoo! fantasy leagues, Bishop's playing time was destined to be drastically reduced due to the return of Craig Anderson and the strong play of Robin Lehner. But now he could play in 10 or more of Tampa Bay's remaining 13 games.

Bishop has just 36 games of total NHL experience, but the more he plays, the more comfortable he looks. He won three games in a row immediately following Anderson's ankle injury, and is 4-1-0 in his past five games, including a 24-save shutout over the Rangers back on March 28.

A good sign of his improved technical game is revealed in his perfect 4-0 record in shootouts this season. With only three goals allowed on 19 opportunities, his .842 save percentage is proof he can not only make big saves under pressure, but good reads on various types of breakaways and shot releases.

His even-strength save percentage is promising at .927 (303-327), while his power play save percentage is solid at .889 (56-63).

The biggest obstacle for Bishop during this transition phase is obvious -- adjusting to playing behind a team that has struggled defensively. Tampa Bay averages 3.17 goals-per-game (third in the NHL), but allows 2.97 per game. Those numbers are even worse on the road, where they've allowed 3.43 goals-per-game and scored an average of 2.87 per game.

Bishop is just 3-3-0 on the road with a 3.11 GAA and .903 save percentage this season, and the Lightning play eight of their remaining 13 games away from the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Despite the ominous road splits, Bishop is regarded as a late-bloomer with the potential to be a better-than-average starting goalie. Since his career 2.58 GAA and .911 save percentage stretches over the course of four seasons, the sample size is still very small, so your decision to acquire him will have to rely more on gut instincts than in-depth research.

Still, with a towering 6-foot-7 frame and an opportunity to establish himself as a full-time starter, if you're looking for a boost in volume categories, Bishop could be a nice surprise to end the season.

TRENDING UPWARD

James Reimer, Maple Leafs -- Reimer should have plenty of confidence after Toronto held firm with its tandem at the trade deadline. He enters Thursday night's game against the Flyers with a 3-0-2 record in his past five games, including a 31-save shutout in a 4-0 win over Ottawa on March 30.

Antti Niemi, Sharks -- The Sharks are streaking again thanks to Niemi's five straight wins. He posted back-to-back shutouts (49 total saves) during that stretch and has allowed just 12 goals in his past seven games. Expect him to start 11 or 12 of San Jose's 13 remaining games.

Anton Khudobin, Bruins -- With a hefty schedule in April, the Bruins won't be afraid to lean on Khudobin. He has won two games in a row, posting a 26-save shutout on March 31 and then stopping 45 of 47 shots in a 3-2 win over Ottawa. He is now 8-3-0 with a 2.07 GAA and .929 save percentage on the season.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Martin Brodeur, Devils -- After winning his first two games following his back injury, Brodeur has gone 0-1-3 in his past four games. In that stretch, he has allowed 12 goals on just 90 shots, a .867 save percentage.

Ondrej Pavelec, Jets -- Winnipeg still leads the Southeast division, but the Jets are slipping fast, going just 3-7 in their past 10 games. A frustrated Pavelec has allowed 11 goals in three straight losses, a .891 save percentage.

Kari Lehtonen, Stars -- With the loss of Derek Roy and Jaromir Jagr at the deadline, the Stars were clear sellers after four losses in five games. Lehtonen has been really leaky, allowing 19 goals in his past five games, stopping just 131 of his last 150 shots (.873 save percentage).

KEEP AN EYE ON …

Brian Elliott, Blues -- After a quick conditioning stint in the AHL, it didn't take long for Elliott to find his way back into the crease. He replaced Jaroslav Halak (IR) in the first period of a 4-1 win over the Wild, stopping 19 of 20 shots. He's well-rested due to Halak and Jake Allen's playing time, and could lead the Blues down the stretch.

TOP 30 FANTASY GOALIES

These modified re-rankings are a projection of a goalie’s fantasy output for the entire season. Our rankings are based on volume categories like games played, wins, saves, and GAA and SP%. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). It is important to note that our rankings reflect sheer fantasy value, not talent. A less-talented goalie could be ranked higher due to their team’s strong defense and offense.

1. Tuukka Rask, Bruins (same)

2. Marc-Andre Fleury, Penguins (same)

3. Pekka Rinne, Predators (same)

4. Carey Price, Canadiens (+1)

5. Henrik Lundqvist, Rangers (-1)

6. Antti Niemi, Sharks (+3)

7. Niklas Backstrom, Wild (-1)

8. Corey Crawford, Blackhawks (same)

9. Jonathan Quick, Kings (-2)

10. Jonas Hiller, Ducks (same)

11. Jimmy Howard, Red Wings (same)

12. Braden Holtby, Capitals (+2)

13. Sergei Bobrovsky, Blue Jackets (+4)

14. Ryan Miller, Sabres (-2)

15. James Reimer, Maple Leafs (+5)

16. Kari Lehtonen, Stars (-2)

17. Cory Schneider, Canucks (-2)

18. Ilya Bryzgalov, Flyers (-2)

19. Roberto Luongo, Canucks (same)

20. Viktor Fasth, Ducks (+4)

21. Ondrej Pavelec, Jets (-3)

22. Ray Emery, Blackhawks (-1)

23. Martin Brodeur, Devils (-1)

24. Evgeni Nabokov, Islanders (+2)

25. Ben Bishop, Senators (+3)

26. Semyon Varlamov, Avalanche (-1)

27. Devan Dubnyk, Oilers (+3)

28. Anton Khudobin, Bruins (NR)

29. Tomas Vokoun, Penguins (-2)

30. Justin Peters, Hurricanes (NR)

Injured: Craig Anderson, Mike Smith, Cam Ward, Jaroslav Halak, Anders Lindback, Jose Theodore

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