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Top Shelf: Quiet storm: Bolts content with low profile

By Dan Di Sciullo, NHL Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning are quietly putting together one of the strongest starts to the 2013-14 season, but you won't hear the club complaining about the lack of attention.

The club's sniping centerman Steven Stamkos summed up his team's attitude perfectly a few weeks back.

"We probably have the quietest 8-3 record in the league," he said. "And we like it that way."

Fast forward to the present and the Lightning have improved that record to 10-4-0, but they're still managing to keep a low profile.

Everybody knows Tampa Bay is an offensive powerhouse, with Stamkos and Martin St. Louis providing loads of scoring up front, but the club also is doing a heck of a job keeping the puck out of its own net. Preventing the opposition from scoring had been a major problem for the Lightning in recent years, and it was the main factor in keeping Tampa out of the playoffs in each of the past two springs.

Tampa is currently tied for 11th in the NHL with 2.50 goals surrendered per game. That's after finishing 26th in the category last season (3.06 GPG) and placing dead last in the NHL the year before when it yielded a whopping 3.39 GPG during the 2011-12 season.

Even the Lightning team that made a surprising run to the Eastern Conference finals in 2010-11 had issues in its own end. Tampa Bay was tied for 21st in the league in goals allowed per game (2.85) during that regular season before lowering that number to 2.50 during the postseason.

Tampa Bay's trip to the conference finals in the spring of 2011 was sparked by a midseason trade for veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson, and the 2013-14 club also is reaping the rewards of a deal made at last season's trade deadline.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman took the franchise to the conference finals in his first year calling the shots, and ever since he has been desperately trying to make good on that early promise. Although Yzerman's trade for Roloson was a good stop-gap move, he knew the now-retired goaltender wasn't a long-term solution.

It appears "Stevie Y" may have found the answer to the club's goaltending prayers when he acquired Ben Bishop from Ottawa at last season's trade deadline.

The Lightning sent rookie forward Cory Conacher to the Senators on April 3 of the lockout-shortened season to land the 6-foot-7 goaltender, and the move appears to be a stroke of genius on Yzerman's part.

While Bishop was less than impressive during a nine-game run in Tampa last season, the American has been as reliable as they come in 2013-14. In 11 games, the 26-year-old has posted a 9-2-0 record to go with a 2.15 goals against average and .925 save percentage.

Although he's clearly outplayed backup Anders Lindback, the Bolts are doing their best to not come right out and declare Bishop the No. 1 goaltending option. Considering Bishop only started 38 games in his career heading into this season, it's probably a good idea to keep things on an even keel and not put any added pressure on the young goaltender.

"He has the job, but he's earning the job," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper recently told the Tampa Bay Tribune. "It hasn't been given to him. Ben Bishop has holes, but I think he's raised his competition level from last year to this year. He understands what we expect of him."

With less than 20 percent of the regular season behind them, the Lightning are looking like a playoff team. In fact, the club enters Thursday's game against Edmonton locked in a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Division along with Toronto and Detroit.

Still, when a team is coming off consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, it's important to stay the course and keep plugging away. Perhaps, one of the reasons Stamkos said his team enjoys having a quietly strong season is that he knows respect will come in due time as long as Tampa can keep proving its early success is no fluke.

After all, if Bishop continues to do his part in cleaning up things at the back end, it's a good bet Stamkos, St. Louis and the offense can take care of the rest.

11/07 15:40:58 ET

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Schedule

Wednesday, April 23Full Scoreboard
Pittsburgh33rd Prd | Box
Columbus2@theRink | TV: NBCSN, CBC, ROOT, FSN-OH
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, Game Four. Pittsburgh leads series, 2-1.
Anaheim22nd Prd | Box
Dallas0@theRink | TV: CNBC, TSN, RDS2, FSN
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Four. Anaheim leads series, 2-1.
St. Louis 4/23 9:30 PM ET
Chicago @theRink | TV: NBCSN, CBC, FSN-MW, CSN
Western Conference Quarterfinals, Game Four. St. Louis leads series, 2-1.
Full Scoreboard

Standings

2013 - 2014 NHL Eastern Conference Standings
 
Atlantic Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
p-Boston 54 19 9 117 261 177 31-7-3 23-12-6 18-9-3
x-Tampa Bay 46 27 9 101 240 215 25-10-6 21-17-3 19-8-3
x-Montreal 46 28 8 100 215 204 23-13-5 23-15-3 18-8-4
x-Detroit 39 28 15 93 222 230 18-13-10 21-15-5 17-8-5
Ottawa 37 31 14 88 236 265 18-17-6 19-14-8 14-9-7
Toronto 38 36 8 84 231 256 24-16-1 14-20-7 14-13-3
Florida 29 45 8 66 196 268 16-20-5 13-25-3 13-16-1
Buffalo 21 51 10 52 157 248 13-21-7 8-30-3 7-18-5
 
Metropolitan Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Pittsburgh 51 24 7 109 249 207 28-9-4 23-15-3 20-8-2
x-NY Rangers 45 31 6 96 218 193 20-17-4 25-14-2 16-11-3
x-Philadelphia 42 30 10 94 236 235 24-14-3 18-16-7 15-11-4
x-Columbus 43 32 7 93 231 216 22-15-4 21-17-3 16-13-1
Washington 38 30 14 90 235 240 21-13-7 17-17-7 12-15-3
New Jersey 35 29 18 88 197 208 21-11-9 14-18-9 16-9-5
Carolina 36 35 11 83 207 230 18-17-6 18-18-5 15-13-2
NY Islanders 34 37 11 79 225 267 13-19-9 21-18-2 10-16-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
2013 - 2014 NHL Western Conference Standings
 
Central Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
y-Colorado 52 22 8 112 250 220 26-11-4 26-11-4 19-6-3
x-St. Louis 52 23 7 111 248 191 28-9-4 24-14-3 21-6-2
x-Chicago 46 21 15 107 267 220 27-7-7 19-14-8 13-13-3
x-Minnesota 43 27 12 98 207 206 26-10-5 17-17-7 14-12-3
x-Dallas 40 31 11 91 235 228 23-11-7 17-20-4 13-11-5
Nashville 38 32 12 88 216 242 19-17-5 19-15-7 12-13-4
Winnipeg 37 35 10 84 227 237 18-17-6 19-18-4 9-15-5
 
Pacific Division W L OTL Pts GF GA Home Away Div
z-Anaheim 54 20 8 116 266 209 29-8-4 25-12-4 22-4-3
x-San Jose 51 22 9 111 249 200 29-7-5 22-15-4 18-7-3
x-Los Angeles 46 28 8 100 206 174 23-14-4 23-14-4 16-10-3
Phoenix 37 30 15 89 216 231 22-14-5 15-16-10 14-9-6
Vancouver 36 35 11 83 196 223 20-15-6 16-20-5 12-13-4
Calgary 35 40 7 77 209 241 19-19-3 16-21-4 11-15-3
Edmonton 29 44 9 67 203 270 16-22-3 13-22-6 8-17-4
 
x= clinched playoff berth
y= clinched division title
z= clinched overall points title
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Scoreboard
Local
Final
CHR 9
DUR 1
 
4th
MIA 79
CHA 72
 
Final
ATL 3
MIA 1
Final
CHC 5
ARI 7
Final
COL 10
SFG 12
Final
OAK 0
TEX 3
Final
SEA 5
HOU 3
6th
PIT 2
CIN 4
 
7th
CLE 3
KAN 3
 
7th
WAS 1
ANA 2
 
6th
TOR 6
BAL 9
 
7th
DET 4
CWS 2
 
5th
TAM 2
MIN 4
 
5th
BOS 4
NYY 0
 
6th
NYM 3
STL 1
 
4th
MIL 4
SDP 1
 
10:10pm Tonight
LOS
PHI
4th
MIA 79
CHA 72
 
2nd
SAN 36
DAL 42
 
9:30pm Tonight
HOU
POR
2nd Intermission
CLB 2
PIT 3
 
1st Intermission
DAL 0
ANA 2
 
9:30pm Tonight
CHI
STL
Final
CHR 9
DUR 1