"In honour of the 11-year anniversary of our organization's first Stanley Cup, how would John Tortorella answer that question?" Cooper said, referring to Tampa Bay's coach in 2004.
Tortorella might have walked out of the room rather than answer whether Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy will start in goal for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final Monday night against the Chicago Blackhawks. Cooper went one step further, saying he didn't know.
"Which would tell you, if I don't know, that Bish could be available," Cooper said Sunday afternoon. "You'll have a better indication, I guess, tomorrow at the skate."
Bishop left Game 2 in the third period with an undisclosed ailment and was replaced by Vasilevskiy, a 20-year-old rookie with two previous relief appearances this post-season. Bishop travelled with the Lightning to Chicago.
Vasilevskiy is considered one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey and has experience from three world junior tournaments and the KHL playoffs.
"He's played under some bright lights ... He's ready to go in at any moment," Cooper said of the young Russian goalie. "So if Bish can't go tomorrow, is that a blow to us? Sure it is.
"But do we think the series is lost because Vasilevskiy is going in? Not a chance."
Lightning players expressed similar confidence in the six-foot-three, athletic Vasilevskiy, who's in his first NHL season but played professionally in Russia. Cooper and captain Steven Stamkos singled out his preparation
"He's a guy that's probably the most prepared out of everybody," Stamkos said. "He's at the rink six to eight hours a day preparing. He's waiting for his chance."
After becoming the first goaltender to win in relief in the Cup final since Frank Pietrangelo for the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991, Vasilevskiy could get his first start in Game 3.
Blackhawks players brushed off Tampa Bay's goaltending situation as having anything to do with them.
"I've been playing against Vasilevskiy in the international (competition with Finland), so I know him a little bit," Chicago forward Teuvo Teravainen said. "I think I've scored on him before, too. We'll see who's in there."
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