The Montreal Canadiens will face the Tampa Bay Lightning tomorrow night in game one of their opening round playoff series, and Tampa Bay will be without their number one goaltender, Ben Bishop.
Bishop had an excellent regular season for the Lightning, posting a 2.23 goals against average and a .924 save percentage in 63 games. The American goaltender also posted 37 wins and 5 shutouts, numbers that have him in the Vezina Trophy consideration.
Bishop came to the Lightning in a fantastic trade by Tampa Bay general manager Steve Yzerman that sent Cory Conacher and a 4th round pick to the Ottawa Senators. Conacher was placed on waivers by the Sens this year and claimed by the Buffalo Sabres, while Bishop carried the Lightning to home ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs.
In fact, Lindback was just named the NHL’s first star of the week in recognition of his stellar performance since Bishop was injured with an upper body injury against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Lindback came on in relief to help shut out the Leafs that night, playing most of the game with Bishop being injured just over five minutes into the opening period. Lindback stopped all 25 Leafs shots he faced and would then turn aside 34 of the 36 shots the Philadelphia Flyers sent his way, carrying the Lightning to a 4-2 victory.
With home ice advantage on the line in the Bolts season finale against the Washington Capitals, the 6’6 goaltender was not busy, but pitched another shutout. He stopped 18 shots in 65 minutes of play, and turned aside all three Capitals shooters in the shootout, leading the Lightning to a 1-0 win.
Carey Price would have had his hands full going head to head with Ben Bishop, but clearly Lindback is coming into game one on a hot streak. A hot goalie at the right time of year can carry a team through a playoff series, or two, much like Jaroslav Halak did for the Habs in 2010.
Price is up for the task this season however, having played the second best statistical season of his career, and grabbing a gold medal in Sochi, Russia at the Olympics in the process.
Price had a 2.32 GAA and .927 SV% to go along with 6 shutouts and 34 wins for the Canadiens. It is difficult to measure just how much better Price is thanks to going through the Olympic pressure and posting a pair of shutouts to claim the gold. However, playing goal for the Habs in the postseason is a pressure packed situation, and Price now has experience performing and coming out on top when all eyes are on him.
The Price vs. Bishop showdown won’t happen, at least not in game one, but that doesn’t mean Montreal has as much of an advantage in goal as some people would make you believe.
Price will be fantastic in this series, but whether it is Lindback or Bishop in the other end of the rink, there will be ample competition for the Canadiens goaltender throughout this series.
I would have leaned toward Price in this matchup if Bishop were healthy, so I still have to say the Habs have a slight advantage in goal, but scoring is going to be hard to come by for both teams in this series.