When it comes to talking about goalies in the NHL, you don't hear Ben Bishop of the Tampa Bay Lightning mentioned in the same conversation with the likes of Carey Price of the Montreal Canadiens or Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers.
Lundqvist won the Vezina Trophy in 2012, while Price is expected to win that same award as well the Hart Memorial Trophy for the 2014-15 season.
The 6'7" Bishop has been very solid in the past two seasons with the Lightning as their full-time starter in front of the net.
Last season, Bishop won 37 games and posted a 2.23 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. That performance allowed Bishop to become a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, which eventually went to Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins.
Also, Bishop suffered a wrist injury late in the season which forced the former Maine Black Bear out of the playoffs.
The Bolts were swept in four games last postseason with Bishop out of the lineup against the Canadiens.
In 2014-15, Bishop upped his win total to 40 games while posting a 2.32 GAA and .916 save percentage. Even though his numbers were very comparable to what he did the year before, he was not named as a Vezina Trophy finalist.
Unlike last season, Bishop would get his chance to play in front of the goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs. So far this postseason, even with a couple of glitches, Bishop has not disappointed.
It should also be mentioned that Bishop and the Lightning have beaten Price and the Canadiens as well as Lundqvist and the Rangers along the way to the Stanley Cup Final against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Bishop currently leads all goalies in the playoffs with 13 wins and three shutouts. In addition, Bishop has a 2.19 GAA and .919 save percentage.
Bishop came up big in the Eastern Conference Final against the Rangers when he posted shutouts in Games 5 and 7 at Madison Square Garden in New York. However, his gutsy performance in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final may have been his best performance yet.
Bishop and the Bolts lost Game 1 to the Blackhawks 2-1 after Chicago scored two goals in less than two minutes with about six-and-a-half minutes to go in the game.
Although that was a very difficult loss, the Bolts bounced back and won Game 2 by a 4-3 scoreline. The game had a very weird ending, though, as Bishop was forced to leave the net twice in the third period for undisclosed reasons.
The Lightning remained mum on the subject leading into Game 3, but Bishop was in front of the goal when the game started.
The Bolts got off to a quick start and had a 1-0 lead fairly early in the first period thanks to a howitzer by Ryan Callahan after he received a very long pass by defenseman Victor Hedman.
But the Blackhawks soon took control of the period after that, and Bishop was peppered with shots over the rest of the frame. All told, the Hawks had 19 shots in the period and finally scored on a power-play goal by former Bolt Brad Richards.
Bishop and the Lightning were fortunate that the score was only 1-1, as the Hawks missed two open nets while Bishop was scrambling to get back into position. No. 30 appeared to be favoring a lower-body injury as he took the barrage of shots by the Blackhawks.
The second period was played in fast and furious fashion at times, but the 1-1 score stood. Big Ben took his lumps, though.
Bishop was hit in the head by the hand of Brandon Saad as he charged the Lightning net. That led to a goalie interference call, and the Bolts missed a chance to score when they had a five-on-three man advantage.
The third period was very interesting.
The Hawks took the lead early with a goal by Saad. Just 13 seconds later, the Lightning tied the score 2-2 thanks to the "Triplets" coming up with a big play again. Ondrej Palat punched in a goal from close range, with assists coming from linemates Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.
The score remained 2-2 until late in the game, when Hedman took a pass from Callahan and effortlessly glided into the Blackhawks' zone. The blueliner delivered a perfect pass in the slot to Cedric Paquette, who found the back of the net for a 3-2 Lightning lead.
The score stood up and the Bolts now have a 2-1 advantage in the Final.
Bishop stopped 36 shots and posted a .947 save percentage when it was all said and done—and he accomplished this when it was pretty obvious to all who watched the game that he was certainly not 100 percent.
Probably closer to 80 percent, based on the way he struggled to move at times.
Bishop had help in the victory, however. Hedman was probably the best player on the ice in the game and was strong again defensively—Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews did not have a point—in addition to his two assists.
The third line of the Lightning also came up big, as Callahan had a goal and an assist, while Paquette had the game-winning goal. J.T. Brown played tenacious defense and also added an assist.
But the story leading up to the game was all about Bishop's availability to play in Game 3. He not only played, but he played extremely well.
Bishop is now just two wins away from doing something that neither Price nor Lundqvist have ever done.
Hoist the Stanley Cup.