Tampa Bay Lightning can go into the All-Star break feeling much better about its goaltending
There was an interesting moment during Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher's postgame meeting with reporters after Tuesday night's 2-0 victory over the Maple Leafs. Boucher was asked about how nice it must be for him and the team to have a steady influence in goal when the game isn't exactly going as planned. Boucher admitted, yes, it was good, but instead of specifically addressing Dwayne Roloson, who 26 saves gave him his third shutout in 10 games since being acquired from the Islanders, he threw Dan Ellis into the mix as well.
"It's good for the team," Boucher said. "It's obviously good for Roloson. He's going well, but I think also for Ellis you can see he had a lot more poise going in the net with less pressure, I think. His last game was outstanding. I just shook both goaltenders' hands and told them we're going into this (All-Star) break with a free mind and they can feel that they've done a great job in both their last games and they're a big part of why we're having success, so, yes, you're right, it feels good but I want to make sure we also focus on that Ellis has given us a tremendous game the last game he played. So, we're very happy with what's going on with the goaltenders."
What is happening is the finding of some consistency.
For Roloson, who is 7-3-0 with a 2.25 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage with Tampa Bay, it seems he has gotten over the idea, espoused by Boucher, that he needed to prove himself to his new teammates by being brilliant rather than steady. Roloson was trying almost too hard, trying to do too much, Boucher has said. That, the coach added, contributed to the two blip games in which Roloson allowed five goals on 23 shots in 27 minutes against the Penguins on Jan. 5, and four goals on nine shots Jan. 12 against the Devils.
For Ellis, who in his past three games (two starts) has gone 1-1-0 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, it is getting back to a more reactive style, he said. He also has worked very hard, Boucher said, at limiting the goals allowed on shots from long range. More than once Ellis has allowed goals on unscreened, untouched shots. It is a long way back from where he was -- he is 12-7-5 with a 2.98 goals-against average and .887 save percentage -- but Ellis said he feels he is going in the right direction.
And let's not forget Mike Smith, whose last two games before he was hurt and then sent to AHL Norfolk on a conditioning assignment were victories in which he stopped 49 of 51 shots and which he called his two best games of the season.
So, let's put aside the fact it will be an interesting situation when Smith, still getting his left knee back in shape, is brought back from Norfolk; GM Steve Yzerman has said the plan was for Smith to stay only through Tuesday. Let's give the goalies credit for righting the ship a bit. It's been a tough road, especially for Smith and Ellis who took the brunt of criticism for some tough outings, and Tampa Bay still, on the season, has been outscored 152-149.
The way it is going, by the time the playoffs role around, the Lightning may actually have more goals than its opponents.