Cooper: Bishop and Vasilevskiy are 1 and 1A

Lightning coach Jon Cooper had some fun with the media, who were asking about the status of goalie Ben Bishop for Game 3.

CHICAGO – Keep holding your breath.

We should get a clue at Monday’s morning skate, but we might not know for certain until the starting lineups are announced Monday night in the Madhouse.

Who will start in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final?

The question was asked of Jon Cooper Sunday afternoon in the team’s downtown hotel.

“In honour of the 11-year anniversary of our organization’s first Stanley Cup, how would John Tortorella answer that question?” the coach replied, pausing to let the laughter breathe.

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Steven Stamkos, who had found out Game 2’s three goalie changes from the arena’s P.A. announcer, said the players were just as in the dark as the fans.

“We’re not sure,” the captain said. “If we were, we probably wouldn’t tell you anyways.” A wry smile through a scraggly beard.

Some observers have speculated that Ben Bishop is feeling ill, others have suggested it’s a knee, still others a groin. But that’s all just noise and guesswork.

What we know, according to the club’s Instagram account, is that the 2014 Vezina finalist is in Chicago with the team. And, according to Cooper, fans should get a clue about his playing status at Monday’s morning skate.

Though Cooper conceded that losing Bishop—he of two Game 7 shutouts in this marvelous marathon—would be a loss, speakers on both clubs downplayed the significance of a 20-year-old kid making his first playoff start partway through the Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy played just 9:13 and stopped five pucks to secure Game 2’s victory, the first Cup Final win in relief since 1991.

But teammates have pointed to the rookie’s bright-lights experience at the world juniors, his near-perfect contribution to Russia’s golden 2014 world championship squad, and his deep KHL playoff run with Ufa Salavat Yulayev last season.

Tampa forward Braydon Coburn joked that the only way he’d be affected by the goalie situation is if he were asked to strap on the pads himself.

“He’s a guy that’s probably the most prepared out of everybody. He’s at the rink six to eight hours a day preparing,” Stamkos said of the seldom-used backup. “He’s waiting for his chance. Whether that’s tomorrow or not, he’ll be ready.”

Chicago’s own 20-year-old of note, Teuvo Teravainen, has scored once in each game of this final and has faced Vasilevskiy twice on the international stage.

“I know him a little bit. I think I’ve scored on him before, too,” Teravainen said. “I don’t really care who’s going to be in the net.”

Cooper pledged his faith in the kid Sunday.

“Do we think the series is lost because Vasilevskiy is going in? Not a chance,” Cooper said. “I look at our tandem, I’d like to stack them up against any tandem in the league because I think we’ve got, you know, 1 and 1A.”

It’s simply a matter of which 1 starts.

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