Does a change of goaltender make sense for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 vs. Pens?
So, is it time Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher gave Mike Smith a shot in net? Is it a good idea for Smith to be the starter in Saturday's Game 5 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal with the Lightning facing elimination against the Penguins? Does Boucher, in other words, need to shake things up kind of like then-coach John Tortorella did in 2003 with John Grahame and Nik Khabibulin?
Let's be clear, Dwayne Roloson has been a terrific addition to the team. He has a 2.07 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in the playoffs, and he was brilliant for much of Game 4, stopping 50 of 53 shots. But Pittsburgh's first goal and, especially, its last, coming 3:38 into double overtime, were soft. James Neal's winning goal was from a sharp angle (he admitted he was just throwing the puck on net) tipped off Roloson's glove and went in. Roloson said he might have been a little surprised by the shot and that it "knuckled."
It wasn't the first soft goals Roloson has allowed. He probably should have stopped Max Talbot's 53-foot goal in Game 3. And there was Craig Adams' goal in Game 2, when Roloson and Eric Brewer apparently miscommunicated and Roloson let the puck slide into the no-play zone behind the goal line which let Arron Asham pick it up.
But the Lightning, overall, was badly outplayed in Game 4. It was outshot 53-31. Perhaps in a do-or-die game, Tampa Bay needs a shakeup. On the other hand, Roloson was brought in to be the No. 1 guy and his stats, except for wins and losses, are pretty healthy. So maybe you stick with him.
Smith, it should be noted, hasn't been bad lately. He has won his past three starts with a shutout, a 1.33 goals-against average and .964 save percentage.
So, how did the big shakeup work for the Lightning back in 2003? Well, Grahame stood on his head and made 46 saves. But Tampa Bay still lost 2-1 in triple overtime to lose the East semifinal to New Jersey in five games. Khabibulin also was upset. He never vented to the media but in a story from September 2003, four months after the fact, he indicated his relationship with Tortorella wasn't great.
"I'm here to play hockey," he said. "I'm not here to marry somebody."
On the other hand, the Lightning in 2003-04 went on to win the Stanley Cup. So, there is that.
CORRECTION: For those of you who read the newspaper game story I wrote about Game 4, the late edition has Paul Martin as the Penguins defenseman Marty St. Louis beat on his goal with 2:46 left in the second period. As the early edition correctly reported, the defenseman was Ben Lovejoy. Just wanted to set the record straight and apologize to Paul Martin, who was very accommodating to me, someone he didn't know, in an interview earlier in the series. There also will be a correction in Friday's paper.
ALSO: With Steve Downie ready to come back after a one-game suspension and Ryan Malone apparently okay despite speculation of a shoulder injury, forwards Mattias Ritola and Blair Jones were reassigned to AHL Norfolk. ... And top prospect Carter Ashton, whose junior team was eliminated from the playoffs, was assigned to Norfolk.