Lindback confidently steps into spotlight as Lightning move forward
The moment Ben Bishop appeared sprawled on the ice in pain the light-switch flickered on for goaltender Anders Lindback.
His head down, his eyes focused on the floor, the crowd hushed to a dull silence, he knew he was entering the game in a scenario where not only the Tampa Bay Lightning had something to prove, but so did he. Yet the goalie's demeanor reflected that of a seasoned pro.
"He was calm and cool in net," head coach Jon Cooper said. "Our team really followed suit, nobody flinched."
After a year that has been anchored by Bishop's ability to keep the Lightning a contender during the long absence of their captain Steven Stamkos, along with a number of other happenings, Lindback was often left as an afterthought.
Now with Bishop not even a possibility for the rest of the regular season and his status for the playoffs in question, the Lightning have no choice but to lean on the 25-year-old, who has played in just 21 games this year with a forgettable 6-12-2 record, .884 save percentage and 3.11 goals-against average.
If Lindback's performance in a 28-save shared shutout Tuesday with Bishop sidelined, coupled with Lindbacks last start, a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, says anything about what is to come, no need exists to wave the white flag just yet.
"I have to convince everybody," Lindback said. "I'm really confident in myself that I can play at this level. I want to be a difference maker and to be able to help this team out."
Despite the numbers, the lack of games and the results so far, it has not deterred Lindback from having a positive attitude and an impeccable work ethic.
"Lindback's been an unbelievable teammate this year," Stamkos said. "He's worked extremely hard, is an unbelievable pro, a great teammate and he got his shot last game and shut the door."
Making it that much easier for him to not buckle under the pressure.
As for the rest of the club's response, they seem to be rising to the occasion once again.
"Everyone raised their game," Stamkos said. "They realized the situation and the way Lindback played, it was fun to watch and you feed off that as a team. We're a team that has gone through adversity and we've found ways. That's been our motto this season."
It also showed their goaltender that it takes much more to win games than simply having hot hands in between the pipes.
"That's what it's going to come down to in the playoffs," Lindback said "To be that group where everyone is playing for each other."
While it is a bump in the road, Cooper admitted that he didn't expect the team to go down a "cobble stone street all year long." But if it is one thing the Lightning has consistently been good at, it is responding well to adversity.
"I fully expect to move forward with or without Ben," he said.
As for the moment that awaits Lindback, a defining juncture in his season, he will approach the games where he is called upon no differently than any other.
"I'm just looking at this as a huge opportunity, but every game is an opportunity" Lindback said. "You work so hard to get here. I also need to accept I can only do my best and just be as prepared as I can."
The response is one expected of a veteran of the game and needed if the Bolts want to continue on a winning trend.