TAMPA - The Tampa Bay Lightning won’t have Ben Bishop, their MVP this season, in net when they open the playoffs against the Montreal Canadiens Wednesday night.
There might have been a time this season when that would have been a catastrophe for the Bolts, but Tampa coach Jon Cooper was sending out a calming message as his club and goaltender Anders Lindback prepared to face the Habs.
“Since the trade deadline we pointed in 16 of 20 games down the stretch," said Cooper. "Before the Olympic break I would say we were winning a lot of games because of our goaltending. That was just a flat out fact. Ben Bishop really carried us. I’d say after the Olympic break we won a lot of games because of our team and the way we played.”
Lindback won the three games in which he appeared down the stretch after Bishop was injured falling to the ice to catch a puck a week ago Tuesday, including a shootout win over the Washington Capitals Sunday that sewed up home-ice advantage for the Bolts against the Habs.
“Naturally you need your goalie to make saves," Cooper continued. "Look at the game against Washington. They really didn’t have that many scoring chances against us, but in a 0-0 game, (Lindback) makes a backdoor save that was insane. If they score, they win the game and this press conference is in Montreal right now.
“He has the ability to make all the saves he should and then a couple he really shouldn’t and that’s a sign of him maturing and I also believe that’s a sign of our team being better.”
Lindback has just 13 minutes of playoff hockey under his belt in a relief role with the Nashville Predators in 2011.
He had an uneven regular season until his closing flurry.
“It’s something you learn playing hockey; you always have to believe in yourself and believe in what you’re doing,” Lindback said. “Just work hard, and things will eventually turn around for you. It’s just a mindset.
“Of course it helps out to have those games that I recently played,” he said. “But tonight’s a new game, it’s a different stage. That’s all my focus is on right now.”
Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher, who has made a reputation for himself in his young career as a guy who will go relentlessly to the net, said the Habs will play the same way regardless of who is in the Tampa goal.
“They’re big, they take up a lot of net and they play deep,” he said of Bishop and Lindback. “For us, it doesn’t really change the way we need to play. The goalies can’t stop what they can’t see, so we need to get in the crease and try and make it as tough on them as we can.”
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