TAMPA — We’ve been here before with the Lightning, at the intersection of Doom and Gloom.
They looked like toast when Steven Stamkos’ leg slammed that goal post.
They would crumble when Marty St. Louis headed for New York.
So, stop if you’ve heard this before:
They’re in trouble.
Ben Bishop’s freakish injury Tuesday finished his regular season. The playoffs are a week away, and there’s no telling if Bishop will be back for the playoffs and Canadiens.
Put him down as a long shot.
Without him, the Lightning have no shot.
Like all hockey teams, the Lightning are genetically vague when it comes to injuries.
You know, I’d love to see history written like an NHL injury report.
... Achilles, lower body, day to day; Anne Boleyn, upper body, doubtful ...
“He could come back,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of Bishop. “This is not something ... Ben Bishop is done, see you in September. That’s not it at all.”
If Bishop isn’t back for the first round, there won’t be a second round.
There’s no safety net in goal.
The Bolts put up a brave front Tuesday, as did Bishop’s backup, Anders Lindback, who pitched a shutout after Bishop went down early in the 3-0 win over the Maple Leafs.
“That’s the most confident I’ve seen him all season,” captain Steve Stamkos said. “What better time?”
Lindback played well and his teammates rallied around him, but it came against a Toronto team that had one skate in the grave.
And there’s a big difference between hopping on the ice in an emergency, no time to even think, and waking up the next morning and realizing you’re the guy, it’s all on you.
Bishop has won 37 games this season. Lindback has won six.
With Tuesday night’s performance, Lindback lowered his goals-against to 3.11 and raised his save percentage to .884.
Try winning a playoff series with those numbers.
At least Lindback has more Stanley Cup playoff experience than Bishop — Lindback played 13 minutes in one game.
Cooper and his players can insist they’re not worried, that Lindy is their man, but what choice do they have?
I don’t know how much confidence they have in Lindback. I don’t know how much confidence Lindback has in Lindback.
It’s so dire that it’s hard not to wonder why Bolts GM Steve Yzerman didn’t chase after a more viable backup goalie near the trade deadline, given Bishop’s other injuries this season and Lindback’s bad performances.
It’s so up in the air that if Bishop doesn’t make it back, and Lindback bombs, the Lightning could turn to 21-year-old Kristers Gudlevskis, who has been recalled from Syracuse — and who has never played an NHL game. Then again, he played for Latvia at the Sochi Olympics, and nearly staged one of the great upsets by stopping 55 shots by Team Canada in a 2-1 quarterfinal loss.
I can just hear the playoff pep talk.
“Look, this is a team from Canada — Team Canada. Get it? The Canadiens. Go get ’em, Tiger!”
Mind you, it’s dangerous territory, doubting these Bolts.
They love proving people wrong. They eat adversity for breakfast.
Ben Bishop lay crumpled on the ice Tuesday.
That’s biting off more than even this team can chew.