Roloson ready for his shot Thursday night
Veteran goalie Dwayne Roloson was very good in the second half of last season, when he led the Lightning on its improbable run to the Eastern Conference Final.
That may seem like so long ago for Tampa Bay fans, who have watched Roloson, 42, struggle so far this year, allowing four goals in 11 of 18 appearances with a .883 save percentage and 3.72 goals against average. Roloson, signed to a one-year, $3 million deal to be the team's No. 1 goalie, has been on the bench for most of this past month, with backup Mathieu Garon playing well and earning the lion's share of starts.
But Roloson finally gets his chance, starting Thursday in Ottawa for hte first time since Dec. 12. And Tampa Bay is hoping for another special second-half from him.
"You know, that's how it works," coach Guy Boucher said. "I've seen it in the past, you ride one goaltender and a all of a sudden, whoops, it's the other goalie you're riding. Hopefully, that's what we're going to see. We're going to need it."
Boucher lauded Roloson's great attitude and work ethic in the long period he's not played. In the meantime, Roloson has worked with goaltenders coach Frantz Jean on some little things, trying to hone is craft, with the break allowing him to rest, mentally and physically. Jean saw some good things in Roloson's relief effort Tuesday, saving 18 of 21 shots in a loss to the Maple Leafs.
"You build off any time you get a chance to play," Roloson said. "You can do a lot in practice, but you're still not emulating a game, a game is totally different, you're making reads and all of that."
Goalies can often receive the blame, as Boucher points out the red light goes on above their heads - not a defenseman who makes a critical mistake. And Roloson, like Garon, hasn't been helped at times by the team in front of him, with the defense depleted due to injuries, missing Mattias Ohlund and now Victor Hedman.
But Roloson hasn't made the same amount of big-time saves at key times as he did last season, and hasn't been nearly as consistent.
"Everyone looks at the numbers, and you can read the numbers whatever way you want," Roloson said. "When I was in (Minnesota), I was below .500 but my goals against average were under 2.00 and save percentage was .930. So I've seen other guys who had numbers like mine and have 18 wins and 2 losses. Numbers are there obviously for a reason, but for me, personally, I don't put too much stock into them. You just focus on trying to help your team win, and that's the bottom line. The wins and losses is what counts."
Jean reiterated Roloson didn't need to reinvent the wheel when it came to his game, just make some subtle changes.
"Just tighten up the whole game," Jean said. "A lot of times when an athlete is struggling a little bit with his game, it's not a question of changing a lot of things, it's not a question of bringing any big changes. It's just a question of doing the little things better. It's the same for a hitter in baseball or a quarterback."
Roloson played in just 20 games for the Islanders last season before getting acquired by the Lightning New Years Day and carrying the load from there. And he said "hopefully the rest is a good thing for going down the stretch."
"We've seen what he can do throughout his career in tough situations, playoff situations - this guy is highly competitive, he's tough mentally," Jean said. "You look at the greatest goalies in the history of the NHL, they all went through periods that are tougher. And we can name 10 right off the bat. The key thing is to keep steering the ship straight and come to work every day. There's no magic solution. Just come to work and work on the little things and that's what he's been doing.He's put all the chances on his side to really have a good second half."
The Lightning is betting on it.
-- JOE SMITH