(Photo Via Tampa Bay Times)
By Jake Ricker
Even since Nikolai Khabibulin left the Lightning, the Lightning struggled to find their number one goalie. While John Grahame and Johan Holmqvist got the Lightning to the playoffs, neither of them could constantly hold a .900 save percentage. Dwayne Roloson was the best of the bunch, but he fell off hard after the 2011 playoffs. Little did the Lightning know, there was a goalie that would be joining them soon that would change the franchise forever.
At the 2013 trade deadline, former GM Steve Yzerman pulled off what many might consider now to be the best trade in Lightning history. The Bolts would send F Cory Conacher and a 4th round draft pick to the Ottawa Senators in exchange for G Ben Bishop. Conacher was a promising rookie and fan favorite at the time, so Bolts fans were skeptical of the trade.
Bishop proved to be exactly what the Lightning were looking for. In his first full season with the Bolts, Bishop earned a .924 SV% and a 2.23 GAA. The Lightning would also finish 2nd in the Atlantic, getting the Bolts back into the playoffs for the first time since 2011. A Bishop injury at the end of the regular season kept the Lightning from getting past the first round, but the future was bright for Bishop and the Bolts.
In his second year, Bishop would post a .916 SV% and a 2.32 GAA and lead the Lightning to another 2nd place finish in the division. Bishop had already shown that he could be a number one goaltender, but things were only getting better. Bishop would help lead the Lightning to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time since the team won in 2004. Unfortunately, Bishop would suffer an injury in the Finals, and painfully tried to play through it. The Lightning would ultimately fall to the Blackhawks in six games.
This 2015 playoff run brought us perhaps the greatest few games played by Bishop in a Lightning uniform, both during the Conference Finals. With the Rangers having tied the series at two games apiece, Game 5 was an important one. Bishop put the team on his back and pitched a 26 save shutout helping the Lightning take a 3-2 series lead. After losing game 6, Big Ben would go on to pitch yet another shutout, sending the Bolts to the finals.
In 2015-16, Bishop would have his best season with the Lightning, finishing the season with a .926 SV% and a 2.06 GAA. The Bolts would once again finish 2nd in the Atlantic and have another shot at making a run for the Stanley Cup. Unfortunately, Bishop would suffer another injury in the playoffs, and the Bolts would ultimately fall to the Penguins in the conference finals.
Bishop struggled in 2016-17 with both injuries and poor play, and was traded to the Los Angeles Kings at the 2017 trade deadline. Bishop still holds two franchise records: all-time save percentage (.921) and best GAA (2.28).
Without Bishop, the team may have never gotten back into the playoffs and started the foundation to what would become a two-time Stanley Cup Champion powerhouse. Bishop was the foundation to getting the Bolts back on track, and if it wasn't for his injuries probably could have won a Stanley Cup.
Not only did Bishop have such a great career on the ice, but he also impacted thousands of fans off the ice. Need proof? Just look at some of these responses to the Bolts thank you post on Twitter.
There is no doubt Bishop has touched so many in Bolts nation. We wish him nothing but the best in his retirement. Once a Bolt, always a Bolt. Let us know what your favorite memory of Bishop in the comments below.
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