Sports jinxes may or may not be a real thing, but it sure seemed like Ben Bishop was jinxed before Game 1 of the second round against the New York Islanders.
Just hours before puck drop, the NHL announced Bishop was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy. Then 29 minutes into Game 1, Bishop was chased, having allowed four goals on 13 shots. Tampa Bay pushed hard in the third period, but New York held on to win 5-3.
Bishop was far from the only problem for the Lightning in the first half of Wednesday’s game. On the second and third scores, the Tampa Bay defense did a poor job of covering Islanders forward Shane Prince, who scored both goals. Prince was wide open right in front of the net in the waning seconds of the first period and scored to make it 3-1.
As far as the other two goals, they were a result of pretty sloppy goaltending from Bishop. One was a Travis Hamonic shot towards the net that somehow just leaked into the net, and the other was a nice wrister from John Tavares on the power play, but there was no screen. With the clear view, Bishop probably should have stopped it with his blocker.
Surely Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper would deny this, but the sluggish start could definitely be the result of the long layoff between the end of round one and beginning of round two. The Lightning had five days off, which they surely needed to give injured stars such as Steven Stamkos and Anton Stralman as much time as possible to heal.
But aside from the first five minutes at the beginning of Game 1, the Lightning appeared rusty, and the Islanders, who only received two days off, were totally on top of their game and took advantage.
At least, Tampa Bay better hope Game 1 was the result of rust and not a carry over from the regular season.
Bishop made three starts against the Islanders during the regular season, going 1-2 with a 4.41 goals against average (GAA) and 0.842 save percentage. It was his highest GAA and lowest save percentage against any team he made at least three starts against this season.
Including Wednesday, Bishop is now 1-3 with a 4.99 GAA and 0.820 save percentage against New York. In the last two games versus the Islanders, he has allowed nine goals on 36 shots (0.750 save percentage).
The Lightning entered this second round series as the favorite mostly due to the advantage the team is supposed to have in net, but if Bishop can’t figure out the Islanders, then Tampa Bay is in deep trouble.
That’s because New York goaltender Thomas Greiss continues to play out of his mind. He yielded a goal just over three minutes into the game, but after that, he stopped the next 21 Tampa Bay shots. The Lightning could have easily been up 2-0 before the five-minute mark if not for a couple key stops from Greiss. Then, the Islanders quickly scored and turned the game in their favor.
Despite allowing two third-period goals, Greiss was excellent in that period as well, picking up spectacular saves in important situations to keep New York ahead. In all, he still stopped 33-of-36 shots (0.917 save percentage) he faced Wednesday.
Since allowing four goals in Game 1 of the first round against Florida, Greiss has a 1.65 GAA and 0.946 save percentage this postseason.
If Greiss keeps playing like this, Tampa Bay is going to have difficulty scoring even if they are able to knock off some rust before Game 2. And with Bishop’s struggles versus the Islanders, all the sudden, it doesn’t appear goaltending will be a clear advantage for the Lightning.
Of course, it’s important to keep in mind it’s only one game. Bishop and Tampa Bay should come out with a much better effort in Game 2, but interestingly, every team that advanced into the second round this postseason won Game 1.
New York is off to that fast start every underdog team wants in a series.