Ben Bishop’s numbers have been Vezina Trophy-worthy over his last five starts.
The Tampa Bay Lightning starting goaltender has given up just eight goals in those five games and less than two in each. He owns a sterling 1.63 goals-against average and .941 save percentage since his start in St. Louis on October 27.
The only negative number on Bishop’s stat line?
Bishop went 0-5-0 in his last five. Overall, he’s 5-7-1 on the season.
“I give up five or six goals and win a game, and then give up one and lose,” Bishop said. “I don’t want to give up five or six. At this point, just stay the course and don’t change anything. Stick with it. It’s a long season. Unfortunately, the wins haven’t been coming, but keep playing the same way, eventually the tide will turn.”
Bishop is looking for his first victory in November and first since the Lightning’s 4-3 overtime win Oct. 23 at Winnipeg, a game where Bishop allowed three goals.
Bishop will get his chance to return to the win column tonight when the Bolts host the Calgary Flames at Amalie Arena.
Bishop said the only thing that will pull the Lightning out of their recent funk – losses in seven of their last nine – is hard work.
“When things aren’t going your way, you’ve just got to bear down and work harder, keep going until things change,” he said.
Bishop has alternated Tampa Bay’s last five starts with backup Andrei Vasilevskiy. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said the plan is to give both enough starts to stay fresh.
“(Bishop’s) played a lot of hockey this year, so for us to get Vasilevskiy back and have another goalie to be able to contribute, that’s what we want,” Cooper said. “But the biggest thing for us is who’s going to give us the best chance to win tonight, and how are we going to have both of them going together, both playing well, both giving them enough games to be at the peak of their position.”
SOMETHING’S BOUND TO GIVE
A season after leading the NHL in goals (259) and goals per game (3.16), the Lightning are struggling to replicate that offensive prowess.
Tampa Bay currently ranks 24th in the league at 2.29 goals per game.
The Lightning have scored three goals combined in their last three games. They’ve been held to one goal or less in nine out of 17.
The Bolts have been shut out three times already this season. They were blanked just once all of 2014-15.
“I think everyone’s gripping (the stick) a little bit too tight and a little bit too stressed over things,” Tyler Johnson said when asked why the Bolts have been struggling to score of late. “You’re almost trying too hard in a sense. “
Tonight’s game against Calgary, then, couldn’t come at a better time for the Lightning.
The Flames are dead last in the NHL for goals against, allowing nearly four goals a game (3.88) through their first 16 contests.
Cooper, however, said the Flames are better than their record would indicate. Calgary has just five wins and is last in the Pacific Division and tied with Colorado for last place in the Western Conference.
“They’ve got a lot of young players,” Cooper said. “They’ve got a lot of skill. They’ve got a really dynamic D corps. The one thing about teams like Calgary, you know you’re going to get an effort…As much as we’ve had trouble scoring, for whatever reason, they’re having trouble keeping it out of the net.”
The Lightning traded goalie Kevin Poulin to Calgary Thursday morning in exchange for future considerations…Tampa Bay ranks 10th in the league for goals-against average at 2.41 per game…The Lightning are just 2-4-0 at Amalie Arena in 2015-16 after going 32-8-1 and setting franchise records for home wins (32) and points (65) last season. Tonight’s game against Calgary will be the Bolts first versus a Pacific Division team. The Lightning were 10-4-0 against the Pacific last season.