Despite Olympic Speculation Surfacing, Bishop Keeps Focus On Bolts
A standout netminder during his 2013-14 campaign, Ben Bishop, cannot control what USA Hockey's looming decision on who will fill their three spots slated for goaltenders, but he can control one thing – his performance with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"You can't control the Olympics," goaltending coach Frantz Jean said. "It's in the hands of USA hockey brass. Ben Bishop cannot control their decisions; the only thing he can control is the quality of his play."
Bishop was the second goalie in the league to reach the 20-win plateau this year, and only American goalie to get to 20 wins. Ottawa's Craig Anderson is the next best American goaltender with 10 wins this season, nearly half of Bishop's total from this year.
Already recording career-bests in games played and wins, including a career-best five-game winning streak to start his campaign, Bishop has not even crossed the halfway point of the season.
Among the Top 10 in goals-against average and save percentage in the league, the 27-year-old has also made the saves he should, but many of the saves he should not have and has constantly received accolades from fellow teammates for his effort. It has been a noticeable difference in Tampa Bay from results between the pipes in the past.
"He's been kind of a third defenseman out there for us," Jean said. "That's helped the Lightning a lot, especially when teams have spent a lot of time in our zone."
Surprisingly enough all the Olympic buzz has not been something that has hurt his focus because without succeeding for his first team, Tampa Bay, there would not even be a possibility internationally.
"In order to make that team you have to play well and win here," Bishop said. "So it's easy to keep my focus with the Lightning."
"He just needs to focus on coming out hard every day and being the best he can be for us," Jean added.
While it seems that one season has been enough to put him in the realm of possibility, there are other factors that may be a part of USA hockey's criteria.
"'Does Jonathan Quick deserve not to be on the team because he got hurt? Does Ryan Miller not deserve to be on the team because he doesn't have a great win-loss record?' There are arguments to be made," head coach Jon Cooper said.
"The thing that was battling Ben was that he didn't have NHL game experience, but if it's based solely on the season we're in, you have to take him."
And to gain the experience you have to start somewhere.
"All those guys that have that experience started without it and went out and delivered," Jean said. "I think if Ben was put in that position he'd do fine, he'd gain that experience and he would certainly be a warrior and a performer for team USA."
Regardless of what happens Bishop said being part of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia would be "a dream come true and something really special." However if he does not get the call he will simply return to what has been his mentality all along – being a part of the Lightning's success.