When credit is due, credit is due, and Ben Bishop deserves full credit for backstopping the Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals.
Ben Bishop played his way through a long, difficult road to pull his team into four wins from the Stanley Cup.
In the first round, Bishop faced rookie goaltender Petr Mrazek of the Detroit Red Wings. While Mrazek has minor NHL experience, he has a .920 SV%, 2.23 GAA and five shutouts with a 19-14-2 record in just 40 games played.
In Mrazek’s first seven playoff games (all played this season against the Lightning), he has a .935 SV%, 2.11 GAA and two shutouts, which came against the highest scoring team of the regular season.
The point is that even with his minor experience, Mrazek is no slouch in net. But, Ben Bishop managed to best the young goalie through seven games and posted a shutout of his own in his first NHL game seven.
Passing Over Price
Round two was certainly a bigger test for Bishop when Tampa Bay found themselves in a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup against the Montreal Canadiens.
Carey Price almost certainly has the Vezina Trophy locked up as the league’s best goalie for the 2014-15 season where he led the league with 44 wins, a .933 SV% and a 1.96 GAA. Price also had nine shutouts, second only to Marc-Andre Fleury’s 10.
Price’s season was so outstanding that he became the first goaltender to be nominated for the Hart Memorial Trophy since Henrik Lundqvist in 2012, but I’ll get to him. The last goalie to win the Hart was Jose Theodore in 2001-02.
While Tampa Bay and Montreal was a rematch, this year was under different circumstances. Last year, Bishop wasn’t in net due to an elbow injury and Montreal swept the Lightning in four games. This year, Bishop played stronger than Price and closed out the Canadiens in six games.
Bishop Dethrones the King
After taking down Mrazek and Price, Ben Bishop faced his toughest matchup next, Henrik Lundqvist.
Lundqvist, dubbed King Henrik by some, has accomplished a lot in the NHL but still has yet to claim the Stanley Cup. As mentioned above, Lundqvist was the most recent goalie to be nominated for the Hart Trophy, excluding Price this season.
Lundqvist has been nominated for the Vezina Trophy five times and won the award following the 2011-12 season. He came close to the Cup last season when he backstopped the New York Rangers to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to fall to the Los Angeles Kings in just five games.
With Lundqvist just one win away from battling for the Cup in consecutive seasons, Bishop managed to out-duel the Presidents Trophy winners and King Henrik to book the Lighting’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals since 2003-04 when they won the Cup.
Bishop posted another game seven shutout to become the first goalie in NHL history to post shutouts in each of his first game sevens.
Four Wins Away
The Stanley Cup Finals are set and now Bishop has just one more team to beat, the Chicago Blackhawks. This year marks the third time in six years the Blackhawks have made it to the Cup Finals, where they have won the Cup in each appearance (2010 and 2013).
There is no doubt this will be Ben Bishop’s toughest series of the playoffs due to the experience Chicago brings with them. The Blackhawks’ core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook will each be looking for their third Stanley Cup.
Only Corey Crawford stands in Ben Bishop’s way now. Crawford backstopped Chicago to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2013 when the Blackhawks won the Cup for the second time in just three years.
Can the Lightning best the Blackhawks and claim the Cup? Or will Chicago’s experience be too much to handle and the Windy City will hold the Cup again for the third time in six years?