Stanley Cup Final goaltenders prove doubters wrong

Fred Goodall
Associated Press

Tampa, Fla. — No team wins a Stanley Cup without reliable goaltending, so Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop finds it laughable when he reads or hears criticism about Chicago's Corey Crawford.

Although the starting goalies in the Finals, which resumes tonight, have had their ups and downs this postseason, there's no question Bishop's Lightning and Crawford's Blackhawks wouldn't be here if they couldn't depend on them.

Bishop is 7-1 with a .937 save percentage in games following a playoff loss. He closed out the Eastern Conference finals with a pair of shutout wins over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. He also shut out the Red Wings in Game 7 of their series.

Crawford is better known and more accomplished, helping Chicago win the Stanley Cup two years ago. Now he has a shot at another after briefly losing his job during a tough first-round series.

Bishop has followed Crawford, 30, from a distance.

"He's a great goalie," Bishop said, looking ahead to Game 2 at Amalie Arena, where the Lightning will try to rebound from losing the opener of the best-of-seven series in the closing minutes.

Bishop stopped 19 of 21 shots in Game 1, yielding both Blackhawks goals in a 2-1 loss in a 1:58 span of the third period.

Crawford gave up a goal less than five minutes into the game, but finished with 22 saves to post his 42nd career playoff win — three shy of the Blackhawks' record held by Hall of Famer Tony Esposito.

"Personally, I kind of looked up to him. He spent some time in the minors, just like I did," Bishop said. "Some people doubt him, but the guy just goes out there and wins. He's won a Stanley Cup. It's funny how some people still have questions on a guy who's won a Stanley Cup. And, now he's back at his second one."

Crawford is trying to become the first goalie to win two Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks. Overall, Chicago is aiming for a third title in six seasons.

"To be honest, I never doubted myself, and I don't think guys in our room doubted me. That's what really matters," Crawford said. "No matter what you do, there's going to be somebody who doubts you."

Even after Crawford's struggles in the first round against Nashville, when he was removed from the lineup for three games and part of a fourth.

He regained his job by coming off the bench during Game 6 to replace Scott Darling and help the Blackhawks close out the Predators.

"I don't know what's said or not outside. In the locker room, we know what kind of player he is," Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya said.

The Lightning express the same type of support for Bishop, 28, who began his career as a backup for the Blues and the Senators.

Tampa Bay acquired him in a trade from Ottawa in April 2013, giving the 6-foot-7 Bishop — the tallest goalie in the NHL — his first opportunity to be a full-time starter.

He outplayed two of the league's best goalies, Carey Price and Henrik Lundqvist, to help Tampa Bay reach the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history.

"He's our backbone, a big reason why we're here," center Brian Boyle said. "He's our MVP."