When it's mattered most, Bolts' Bishop has been clutch

The Lightning Perspective: 28-year-old goalie will be tough against Blackhawks

  • Ben Bishop allowed only four goals in four road games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, including shutouts in Games 5 and 7. He's looking to carry that momentum into the Stanley Cup finals.

    Ben Bishop allowed only four goals in four road games against the Rangers in the Eastern Conference finals, including shutouts in Games 5 and 7. He's looking to carry that momentum into the Stanley Cup finals. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Updated 6/2/2015 8:37 PM

TAMPA -- Ben, but don't break.

It was earlier in the playoffs, and Ben Bishop watchers were on high alert, again, looking for cracks. Forget that Bishop had won Game 7 against Detroit with a shutout. The Montreal Canadiens had won two games after the Lightning had grabbed a 3-0 series lead, and the pressure was on. In other news, Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban suggested Bishop had been "sitting on a horseshoe," or: lucky.


So there was the supposedly rattled Lightning goaltender after a practice. I told him wouldn't it be a great idea if he did an interview sitting on a horseshoe, you know, to keep things loose?

The next night, the Lightning closed out the Canadiens. Bishop allowed one goal. After, media crowded him, but the 6-foot-7 Bishop could see over everyone. He saw me looking at his locker bench. Taped to it was a photocopy of a horseshoe. Benjamin Bishop III grinned.

"That was for you."

Yeah, he was rattled, all right.

Now it's the Stanley Cup finals.

"Nothing changes," Bishop said. "Same old, same old."

Here come those recent Cup lifters, the seasoned, star-studded Chicago Blackhawks. Here come the questions, all over again, after all the questions the Lightning's 28-year-old goalie has answered in his first swing at the NHL playoffs. The first goaltender to have shutouts in his first two playoff Game 7s. Just the third goalie to have shutouts in two Game 7s in a single playoff season.

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Bishop bounce back has been a defining feature in these playoffs. He's 7-1 after Lightning playoff losses, with a .937 save percentage. He allowed four goals in four road games against the New York Rangers, including shutouts in Games 5 and 7.

It's clear now that a pivotal moment in this new Lightning history was April 3, 2013, when Bolts GM Steve Yzerman traded for Bishop, who'd never been a No. 1 before. Bishop has gone from an oddity -- the tallest goalie in hockey -- to a guy planted as firmly as a redwood when storm winds blow, beyond grounded. Benny and the Bolts.

Like after Game 7 in New York. The Lightning had just shut out Henrik Lundqvist and New York. Bishop had taken the King. Back home in Kirkwood, just outside St. Louis, Bishop's family was going nuts. What a moment. What must be going through his head, we all thought, what's he thinking? So Bishop is talking to TV after the game, smiling like always, and he inserts a shout-out to his friend Tom Brooks back home. Tommy and Ben grew up playing hockey together. Anyway, Tommy just got engaged, so Ben said congrats on TV.

That's what he was thinking.

Same old, same old.

"There were about a hundred people at (his) house watching," Bishop said. "It was a good opportunity."


He's "Bish" to Lightning teammates. His teachers called him Ben. To his coaches growing up, he's still Benny. To Mom and Dad and his three siblings, he's Benjamin.

He loves his St. Louis baseball Cardinals and his football. He has taken batting practice with the Redbirds before a few games. "I hit two homers," Bishop said. He likes going to movies, is hooked on HBO's "Entourage" and poking around the Channelside district, near his downtown Tampa apartment.

Bishop was selected by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the 2005 draft, then played three seasons at the University of Maine, which he led to two Frozen Fours. He finished his degree work after he left, making his parents prouder still.

Bishop grew up a devout Blues fan. But there was a logjam in the St. Louis goal when he arrived. It stayed that way. Eventually, the Blues traded Bishop to Ottawa. Later, Ottawa shipped him to Tampa Bay for his first real shot at being a No. 1. He has won 52 games this season when you throw in the playoffs.

"That was probably one of the best things that happened to me, getting traded (from the Blues)," Bishop said. "When you're trying make the NHL, there's enough pressure as it is, and when you're going out at home, you're playing in front of family and friends. When I went to Ottawa, (general manager) Brian Murray was talking about the Canadian media and the pressure. I remember playing my first game, thinking this is nothing like playing in your hometown. It was just a huge load off my shoulders, not having all those eyes on me."

It's the finals. And there are all those eyes on him. They've been there before. Across the three clinching games in this Lightning playoff run, Bishop has allowed exactly one goal. He talks about the faith in his teammates and ...

"I've had faith in myself," Bishop said.

Here are the Blackhawks. He's the underdog again.

Same old, same old.

Don't bet against Benny.

• Printed with permission of the (Tampa Bay) Tribune. See the full article at http://tbo.com/

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