Martini: Bolts Shuffling A Stacked Deck Of Goalies
It’s no secret that Anders Lindback had a shaky 2013 season with the Bolts. Now, with the signing of highly touted 2012 draft pick Andrei Vasilevskiy, the logjam of goaltenders might force Lindback to work out the kinks elsewhere. There are a number of things working against Lindback keeping his spot on the Lightning roster this summer. First is the depth of goaltending the Lightning have been drafting and developing since Lindback was acquired in 2012. The second is Ben Bishop’s stellar performance all season. With these thoughts in mind, what direction will the Lightning take? In the end, GM Steve Yzerman said it best. “We’ve got to sort out our goaltending.” This short statement will surely lead to speculation during the off-season. (Photos/Susan Ferlita)
There were flashes of brilliance that Yzerman saw when he traded for the young Swedish netminder two years ago. Flashes that we only saw in the final week of the 2013-2014 regular season. But, for the majority of his time in Tampa Bay, Lindback had a rough go of it. In the 2013-14 regular season, he played in 23 games, going 8-12-2 with an .891 save percentage and a 2.90 goals against average. In what will probably be his swan song in a Bolts uniform Lindy went 0-3-1 in the playoffs with an .881 save percentage and a 3.91 goals against average. With a season like that, all that will remain is the lasting image of him skating off the ice in game four after being pulled for rookie Kristers Gudlevskis before the Bolts were swept out of the playoffs.
The Lightning have been through twenty goalies (Yes, you read that correctly) since Nikolai Khabibulin backstopped the Lightning to a Stanley Cup. However, the future is bright with names like Kristers Gudlevskis, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Adam Wilcox and Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop on the Bolts organizational chart..
There is no denying Bishop had a breakout season. In his first term as a starting goalie, he played 63 game with a record of 37-14-7 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.23 goals against average. These statistics put Bishop in the top five in every major goaltending statistical category, even while ending the season on the sidelines with what would end up being an elbow issue and torn ligaments in his wrist. What does all this mean for the Lightning? It means that Bishop will be getting a major pay raise after next season. It also means the team will need a backup who can carry more of the load.
Will Lindback be bad again next year if resigned? Can Tampa Bay go into next season with Bishop between the pipes and Gudevskis or Vasilevskiy as his back up?
These are the questions that Steve Yzerman must answer. The first question is a difficult one. Lindback has the physical assets and as he showed in the final week of the regular season, he can play well. What can’t be overlooked is the quick post-season exit for the Bolts as Lindback let in soft goals and played small in his net.
The next option would be to have one of the young netminders back up Bishop. This won’t help their development. It is most likely that both Vasilevskiy and Gudlevskis will play for for the Syracuse Crunch, giving them one of the best 1A/1B goalie duos in the AHL.
Yzerman most likely will opt to sign a veteran backup who can give the Lightning 20-30 games and post below a 2.75 goals against average and above a .900 save percentage. A few names that fit the bill are Chad Johnson, Ray Emery or Tim Thomas.
Although Lindback regained some form near the end of the season, his pending restricted free agency, coupled with the depth of talent Tampa Bay is starting to develop in net has it looking like the young Swedish goalie might have to move on to another team.
This offseason, the Lightning would do well trying to trade Lindback’s rights to another team or to not tender him an offer and end this experiment that started two years ago.
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