Dec 15, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) makes a save on a shot by Detroit Red Wings right wing Tomas Jurco (26) in the first period at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Former Tornado Goaltender Ben Bishop Makes Case For Sochi Selection

 

Ben Bishop is making a strong case for inclusion on Team USA for the upcoming 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. The former Texas Tornado goaltender was not on the radar back in July when USA Hockey invited 48 players to the U.S. Men’s National Team Orientation Camp. However, Bishop’s play in net this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning has forced Team USA General Manager David Poile to refocus his attention.

 

In late November, Poile and his staff, including Associate GM Ray Shero, Dir. of Player Personnel Brian Burke, Head Coach Dan Bylsma and Assistant Coaches Todd Richards and Peter Laviolette identified six candidates for the three roster slots. The six include Buffalo Sabres’ Ryan Miller, Detroit Red Wings’ Jimmy Howard, New Jersey Devils’ Cory Schneider, Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Quick, Florida Panthers’ Tim Thomas and Bishop.

 

Poile and his staff are constantly evaluating the six through video, and in person. They evaluate and rank candidates weekly. Poile explained the process to Jeff Z. Klein in an interview for the New York Times. “Do we look at stats? Definitely — from save percentage to goals against, wins and losses,” Poile said. “But it’s the whole body of work over the years, and how they’re playing right now. When you look at all those things, it’s who you like the best.”

 

“We watch games every night,” Poile said. “We do our ratings all the time. Are we working toward our top three? Absolutely. But we certainly don’t want to make a decision or close the doors on anybody. Someone could play well in December, or injuries could come up.”

 

Bishop is one of those playing well in December with a 4 – 1 – 1 record for the month. In fact he has been on top of his game all season, backstopping the Lightning to second place in the Atlantic Division just three points behind Boston despite leading scorer Steven Stamkos going down on November 11 with a broken leg.

Apr 11, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop (30) against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the third period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 6-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

 

This season is Bishop’s first real opportunity to hold down the number one goalie spot on a team in the NHL. Leading up to this season he had an 18 – 17 – 4 career record playing parts of four seasons with the St Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators before finishing up with Tampa Bay at the end of last season. His previous experience had been mainly as a backup so he could never get into the rhythm of playing on a regular basis that so many goalies need to succeed. All that changed coming out of training camp this season and he has grabbed the opportunity and not let go.

 

As an everyday number one goalie, Bishop has remained among the league leaders in all major statistical categories. He is tied for second in Wins and Save Percentage, is third in Goals Against Average and is tied for first in Shutouts. A quick statistical comparison of the six contenders reveals just how strong Bishop’s case is for donning the Red, White and Blue sweater in Sochi.

 

Goalie Candidate Statistics

GP

W

L

OTL

GAA

SV%

Bishop

26

18

5

2

1.96

0.934

Miller

25

8

17

0

2.83

0.922

Howard

21

6

8

7

2.65

0.910

Schneider

15

4

7

4

1.97

0.917

Quick

16

10

5

0

2.35

0.905

Thomas

21

9

10

1

2.75

0.909

 

The USA Hockey Brain Trust led by Poile will have an in-person face-to-face meeting around the holidays to finalize the roster. The 25 players selected to represent the USA in Sochi will be announced at Comerica Park immediately following the end of the Winter Classic game between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs on Jan. 1.

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