Is Lightning’s Cooper Overusing Ben Bishop?

With this recent skid happening for the Tampa Bay Lightning fans and Coach Jon Cooper alike are looking for answer. Now, a two-game skid isn’t something that would cause so much angst and anxiety, except for the fact that it is happening so close to the end of the season as well as playoffs knocking on the door.

Now the latest shiny toy is if Cooper is overusing Ben Bishop. Bishop has regressed since the Olympic break and one wonders why Anders Lindback isn’t utilized more. With Lindback having an .880 save percentage and the team playing  poorly in front of him, well it’s easy to see Cooper throwing Bishop out there more and more especially in back-to-backs.

However how does this hurt Bishop? And more importantly is Bishop being overused?

The answer is yes and no.

The first part of this answer is yes because with Bishop having an upper body injury that has been nagging him, he probably should get some more rest right before the playoffs as a way to stay fresh and minimize his fatigue level. In the playoffs, a hot goalie can take a team far, just as Bishop being a hot goalie took the Lightning into the playoffs. If Cooper keeps using Bishop, especially with 4 games in 5 days. It isn’t going to give him time to be fresh. Lindback should get a start in at least one of those games but Cooper may continue to throw Bishop out there anyway. The worrisome thing is if Bishop’s wrist will affect his play, which it really hasn’t as he has regressed but he hasn’t regressed a significant amount.

Now for why Bishop hasn’t been overused. If one were to look at the stats for goalie starts, Bishop’s starts are right about normal for an NHL starter. He has 62 starts right now and by the end of the regular season he would play 66. For comparison, in 2009-2010 Martin Brodeur had 76 starts with New Jersey, Evgeni Nabokov had 71 with the San Jose Sharks and Jonathan Quick had 72 starts with the Los Angeles Kings.

Clearly Bishop isn’t reaching that threshold and probably won’t. Speaking of Jonathan Quick, the year the Kings won the Stanley Cup, Quick started 69 times for a team that lacked offensive power and a lot of the stress of winning was on him.

If you look at overall minutes played, Bishop is right in the normal of the other NHL starters with 3581 with Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen leading the way.

It would be one thing if Bishop was starting 82 games and playing over 5500 plus minutes but compared to every other dominate starter in the league, he is keeping on par and isn’t an outlier. He will finish the regular season with under 4000 minutes played and at 66 games which is less than what Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury will play at the end of the season.

Considering the fact that both coach and players have talked about how poorly the team has played in front of Bishop, it’s unlikely the reason for this recent losing streak is due to Bishop being tired. It seems to be more correlated to the fact the team in front of him hasn’t played well and if he wasn’t in net it could have gotten worse.

It seems like it may be a lot of work for a first year starter but Bishop has played well with the workload given to him and it gives both Steve Yzerman and Cooper a decent sample size to know what to expect in future seasons with him.

It’s a tough question to answer as Bishop’s play hasn’t regressed so terribly it’s obvious and there are other things playing into effect such as the team as a whole playing at a subpar level.The only way to get the answer to it is to see what happens after April 16th. As of right now the proverbial coin is still in the air and it hasn’t landed on heads or tails.