TAMPA — If you're looking for a savior, Lightning fans, avoid looking in the general direction of Ben Bishop.
The MVP of this season was seen at the Forum on Thursday with his left arm mummy wrapped in bandage. Bishop carried an elbow brace. Before Lightning practice, Bishop took the ice in pads and even stopped and caught a few pucks softly tossed his way, which would be a good sign if the Montreal Canadiens didn't insist on shooting pucks rather than throwing them.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said don't expect to see Bishop anytime soon.
“But I don't know what 'soon' is,” Cooper said.
Maybe this doesn't make Anders Lindback, Bishop's replacement, a fish in a barrel.
Tough spot, though.
Lindback was the losing goalie in Game 1, his first NHL playoff start. He let in five goals as Montreal took the series opener 5-4 in overtime. It's not as if Lindback was horrible, but is that really what you build a comeback on, tonight in Game 2?
At least three of those Game 1 goals for Montreal weren't Lindback's fault. That includes the OT winner, when Lightning rookie center Cedric Paquette, playing just his third NHL game (tougher spot), got caught behind the net, leaving Montreal's Dale Weise alone to end things.
Lindback stopped 39 shots and had a better save percentage than Montreal's Carey Price, who resumed his playoff skittishness and let in four goals in regulation despite facing just 16 shots.
“He's definitely not the reason we lost,” Bolts center Tyler Johnson said of Lindback. “We really didn't give him much help.”
Think the Montreal media would be saying that about Price if the Lightning had won?
I guess it's a matter of expectations.
No, Anders Lindback didn't lose the game.
But he didn't win it, either.
He might have to do that once or twice if the Lightning are to take this series.
I'm not at all sure he can.
Do you really have more confidence in Lindback after Game 1?
“Every save you make, every goal you let in, I try to learn something, whether it's regular season or the playoffs,” Lindback said. “Obviously, it's going to hurt even more when you let in goals in the playoffs, more crucial times. I'm feeling confident to go back in there (Friday).”
He was superb when he rose from the bench/grave and replaced Bishop last week. He finished off one shutout, then threw one of his own in the shootout win that clinched the home ice the Lightning just lost. Lindback was named the NHL's First Star of the Week.
The last guy nicknamed Lindy who took off like this landed in Paris in 1927.
But I couldn't help but think that Bishop might have finished off the Canadiens in Game 1, even if he had been beset by all the “colossal errors” (Cooper's description) like those in front of Lindback. In four games against Montreal this season, Bishop allowed four goals.
So, how did Lindy do?
“He needed to make a save he probably shouldn't,” Cooper said. “And you can't count on your goalies to do that all the time.”
But the Lightning might need a little of what Bishop brought before the Olympic break. There were nights when he took over games.
I'm thinking back to the Lightning run to the Cup 10 years ago — that opening series, after the New York Islanders won Game 2 in Tampa to even the series. Nik Khabibulin won the next two games, on Long Island, with his second and third shutouts of the series.
I'm thinking about 2011, the year the Bolts reached the Eastern Conference finals. In the opening series against Pittsburgh, Dwayne Roloson won Game 7 in Pittsburgh on a 1-0 shutout.
There were saves both those guys made that they shouldn't have made. That's what the playoffs are about.
“Obviously, I'm not happy letting in five goals,” Lindback said. “I can only learn from it and look forward to tomorrow.”
He didn't cost his team the game.
He still might need to win one.