Bishop Injury Opens Door for Vasilevskiy

Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop has once again found himself on Tampa Bay’s injured list after starting just 22 games this season.

After stretching out to make a save against the Detroit Red Wings Tuesday night, the injury-prone netminder was forced to leave the game with just over 12 minutes played in the first period. Backup Andrei Vasilevskiy was required to step up in the crease with Bishop leaving the contest and, luckily for the struggling Lightning, the Russian netminder was able to lead the team to a win, almost posting a clean sheet in the process. With Bishop out for what seems to be a considerable amount of time, the door is open for Vasilevskiy to take over the blue paint in Tampa.

Vasilevskiy’s Crease

Vasilevskiy has received his fair share of starts this season, but it looks like he could be given a significant amount of time now that Bishop is out an estimated 3-4 weeks. Vasilevskiy’s 2016-17 season has been rather strong but he’s struggled as of late, though those hard times could also be associated with Tampa Bay’s recent struggles.

Vasilevskiy currently owns a 7-4-1 record in his 12 starts, posting a .923 save percentage and 2.41 goals against average (GAA); these are respectable numbers for any backup goaltender.

The Tyumen, Russia, native has shown flashes of brilliance this season and has given the Lightning organization every reason to put their trust in him. He has a unique skill set that combines vision, agility and deceiving flexibility to keep pucks from entering his net, proving that he’ll only be getting better with time and experience. With Bishop down and out, this provides Vasilevskiy the chance to dominate in Tampa’s crease and take over as the go-to goaltender between the pipes. It’s his crease to lose now.

Bishop’s Trade Value

There has been speculation surrounding Bishop all season long regarding whether or not the Lightning would bite on trading away their All-Star netminder come the NHL trade deadline Feb. 28, but now those rumours seem troublesome with Bishop’s latest injury. The 6-feet-7-inch goaltender has seen his fair share of injuries over the last three seasons, especially lower-body injuries that have kept him out of action on a number of occasions. Tuesday night against the Red Wings, it was another lower-body injury that found the training staff removing Big Ben from the game.

With Bishop going down to injury, his trade value also seems to be taking a hit. Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman will have to try and convince teams that the injury isn’t that significant and that Bishop will be good to go at the trade deadline when teams will be inquiring about his services. Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season and the Lightning may as well get something for Bishop now while they can with Vasilevskiy poised to take over the starting role in the near future.

The 30-year old Bishop was a Vezina Trophy finalist in 2015-16 and owns the most wins amongst all goaltenders in Lightning history. He currently has nine wins in 22 starts this season with a .906 save percentage and 2.82 GAA. It’s not an ideal time for Bishop to take on the injury as many feel that the big goaltender still had much to prove in picking up his game this year before possibly being moved to another Stanley Cup -contending team, or even back-boning the Bolts through the playoffs once again. His trade value could not be much lower than it is right now and the injury certainly doesn’t help his case.

It’s been a wild ride for the Lightning in terms of injuries this season with the likes of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov sidelined, and now they have to deal with the loss of their starting goaltender.

However, with Vasilevskiy proving that he has what it takes to stand up to the occasion and guard the Lightning’s crease when needed, the loss of Bishop doesn’t seem all that detrimental to the team and their playoff hopes. Vasilevskiy should be getting ready to shake the cobwebs loose because it is definitely his time to shine in sunny Tampa Bay.