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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Bolts’ Bishop calm, cool and collected in goal

TAMPA — At one point during Thursday’s game, Ben Bishop made a save where the puck caromed into the air a short distance in front of him.

The Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender then calmly proceeded to use the blade of his stick to swat the puck back in his direction, and it landed softly in his glove for a stoppage of play.

The calm, confident act was a product of his calm, confident play.

“I think he’s feeling the vibe right now,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I like it. He is calm in the net ... and I think probably at that moment he let everybody know. He’s just feeling it, and it’s fun to watch. You want your team to be like that, you want to have a little swag going on. I’m a big fan of it.”

Bishop is winning over a lot more fans, as well.

Though the plan heading into the first month of the season was to split starts between Bishop and Anders Lindback, Bishop’s early play has forced the plan to be altered.

Heading into tonight’s game against defending Eastern Conference champion Boston, Bishop has won all five of his starts and has yet to allow more than two goals in a game. He is expected to start against the Bruins, which would be his sixth start in eight games.

His 1.57 goals-against average ranks fourth in the league among goalies with more than one start — just behind Boston’s Tuukka Rask — and he has stopped 124 of 132 shots for a .943 save percentage.

Bishop is the first Lightning goaltender to start the season with five consecutive wins since Nikolai Khabibulin at the beginning of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup season.

But Bishop doesn’t want to get ahead of himself. He is maintaining a day-to-day approach, but thinks his preseason performance has carried over into the regular season.

“I played three games, and we won all three games, and it’s kind of a contagious attitude,” Bishop said. “I just think that’s a big thing, whenever you can get out there and win games. ... Right now I’ve won a few games in a row, so I have (played a) couple more games. It’s a long season, so just take it one game at a time, and when I get a chance to play I want to play well.’’

That certainly has been the case in the early going as Bishop has kept his team in games and made key stops at key times. He has not allowed a first-period goal, stopping all 42 shots faced in the opening 20 minutes of the game.

“He put in a lot of work this summer, working on his game and preparing off ice, and obviously on the ice, and the same thing in training camp,” goaltending coach Frantz Jean said. “He really bared down and paid attention to little details, and all of this has been a build-up to all that work. So he’s put in the time to play like this.”

His teammates have taken notice, as well.

“You knew what he was capable of, but he’s still a pretty young guy and hasn’t played that many games,” defenseman Matt Carle said. “So, it’s good to see him get this confidence early on. Hopefully he runs with it.”

So far, Bishop is off and running while taking a big lead in the goalie competition with Lindback.

For the time being, expect Bishop to carry a majority of the workload. It’s not the result of anything Lindback has done wrong, but rather what Bishop has done right.

“Ben has played extremely well and Ben is winning, so we would be foolish not to continue with what has been working,’’ Cooper said.

“You have to stick with that right now, because he is the hot guy.’’

NOTABLE: RW Marty St. Louis and C Valtteri Filppula did not practice Friday for maintenance reasons.

St. Louis played Thursday despite a sore foot that has the captain wearing a protective walking boot.

Filppula “tweaked” something during Thursday’s game, and he was held out of practice for precautionary reasons, Cooper said.

Both are expected to be in the lineup against the Bruins.

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