Last year was a breakthrough season for Tampa Bay Lightning and former University of Maine goaltender Ben Bishop.
But there was some heartbreak, too.
He was one of three finalists for the Vezina Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s best goaltender based on a vote among general managers.
Boston’s Tuukka Rask won the award.
Bishop also was left off the United States Olympic team roster — another former UMaine goalie, Jimmy Howard, earned the third and final goaltender spot. And he wasn’t able to play in the playoffs because he fell and dislocated his elbow with three games remaining in the regular season.
“Not making the Olympic team was a bummer, but, at the same time, it was out of my control. As for the playoffs, you can never predict (an injury). There’s not much I could do about that,” said Bishop, who played the second half of the season with a cast on his wrist — on his blocker hand — after suffering torn ligaments in January.
“I had surgery on the wrist and rehabbed it all summer. It’s still not 100 percent, but it feels pretty good,” said Bishop, whose elbow has healed. He said he played in three exhibition games.
Bishop is one of five former Black Bears on NHL rosters when the season gets underway Wednesday night.
In addition, former Maine goalie Garth Snow and defenseman Dave Nonis are the general managers of the New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs, respectively, and Jack Capuano is the head coach of the Islanders.
Former Maine player and associate head coach Bob Corkum and ex-Black Bear interim head coach and assistant Greg Cronin are two of Capuano’s assistants.
John Tortorella, who coached the Lightning to the Stanley Cup in 2004, isn’t behind an NHL bench this season after he was fired by the Vancouver Canucks following last season. He also coached the New York Rangers in addition to the Lightning.
Other former Black Bears on NHL rosters, in addition to Bishop, include Howard and right wing Gustav Nyquist with Detroit; Buffalo center-wing Brian Flynn; and right winger Teddy Purcell, who was traded by Tampa Bay to Edmonton during the offseason.
Winger Dustin Penner was traded by Anaheim to Washington last season but is not on an NHL roster.
Bishop, who will turn 28 years old Nov. 21, signed a two-year contract extension over the summer that will keep him with the Lightning through the 2016-17 season. It was worth $5.95 million per year, according to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com.
The 6-foot-7 Bishop registered a 37-14-7 record last season in 63 games, with a 2.23 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. He was fourth in the NHL in games played and wins and seventh in GAA and save percentage. He was fifth, with five shutouts.
He set Lightning single-season records for wins, GAA and save percentage and set the single-game record for saves with 48 against Carolina on Jan. 19.
His 1,625 saves were second most in a season for a Lightning goaltender.
Bishop and the Lightning host Florida to open their season Thursday night in Tampa.
He is looking forward to the season.
“I just want to take another step forward,” Bishop said. “Last year was a great year, and I want to build off that. I want to be better. I’m not going to go out and try to be a Vezina candidate again. I just want to help our team win.
“We had a good offseason. We acquired Anton Stralman from New York and Jason Garrison from Vancouver, and that will help out our defense. I’m excited about that,” Bishop added.
The native of Des Peres, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, was pleased with his contract extension. He signed a two-year deal in 2013 worth a total of $4.6 million over the two years.
Had he not signed his most recent extension, he would have been a free agent after this coming season.
“I’ve put in a lot of hard work over the years, and to get that extension was really nice,” said Bishop, who was happy Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and the owners had enough confidence in him to offer him the extension.
Bishop said it’s a relief not having to worry about where he was going to play next season.
“I didn’t want that in the back of my mind,” Bishop said.
Nyquist also had a breakthrough season during 2013-14.
The 25-year-old Swede led the Red Wings in goals, with 28, and had 20 assists in just 57 games. He scored 12 goals in a 10-game span to help Detroit make the playoffs for the 23rd consecutive year.
Nyquist also played on the silver medal-winning Swedish Olympic team.
Howard had an up-and-down year and is looking to regain the consistency he showed in his previous two seasons.
The 30-year-old former all-star was 21-19-11 with a 2.66 GAA and a .910 save percentage. That represented his worst statistical season since 2010-11, his second full season with the Wings.
Purcell, who is 29 years old, had 12 goals and 30 assists in 81 games for the Lightning last season and has 75 and 153 in 401 career games between Los Angeles and Tampa Bay. He was traded to Edmonton for center Sam Gagner.
The 26-year-old Flynn had six goals and seven assists in 79 games for the Sabres a year ago and has 12 and 12 in 105 career games.
Nonis and the Maple Leafs open against Montreal on Wednesday; Detroit hosts Boston in its opener on Thursday, Buffalo entertains Columbus, and Edmonton awaits Calgary the same night.
The Islanders open at Carolina on Friday.