St. Petersburg Times staff writer Tom Jones compares the goalies in the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and Bruins.
If you're looking for one reason and one reason only the Lightning is in the Eastern Conference final for the second time, look no further than Dwayne Roloson. Midway through the season the Lightning appeared to have a playoff team except for one area: goaltending. On New Year's Day, the Lightning acquired the 41-year-old veteran from the Islanders, and immediately Roloson made an impact, winning eight of his first 11 starts, including four shutouts and two shootouts. In 34 appearances with the Lightning, Roloson went 18-12-4 with a 2.56 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. And if there were any concerns about how someone his age would hold up during the grind of the postseason, Roloson has ended such talk. He leads the playoffs in goals-against average (2.01) and save percentage (.941) despite facing more shots (389) than any goalie in the postseason. In 2006, he led the eighth-seeded Oilers to the Stanley Cup final before being injured in Game 1 against the Hurricanes. If something were to happen to Roloson this year, the Lightning would turn to Mike Smith, who has never appeared in an NHL postseason game. He finished the regular season strong with three consecutive victories, allowing only a total of four goals. However, he hasn't appeared in a game since the Lightning's regular-season finale April 9.
Tim Thomas is one of the NHL's feel-good stories. A teammate of the Lightning's Marty St. Louis at Vermont, Thomas bounced around the ECHL, AHL and IHL and Europe. He even attended the 1999 Lightning training camp before becoming an NHL regular with the Bruins at age 31 in 2005. Since then, he has been one of the best. He is a three-time All-Star, won the Vezina Trophy (best goalie) in 2008-09 and this season set the NHL record for save percentage in a season (.938). After leading the league in save percentage and goals-against average (2.00) during the regular season, Thomas is once again a finalist for the Vezina. In the playoffs, he has been just as good. His 2.03 goals-against average and his .937 save percentage are second in the playoffs to the Lightning's Dwayne Roloson. Thomas faced the Lightning three times in the regular season, winning all three with a 1.67 GAA and a .950 save percentage. He is 18-11 all time in the playoffs, and this the first time he has reached the conference finals. If Thomas can't play for some reason, the Bruins' backup is Tuukka Rask, who was 11-14-2 this season with a 2.71 GAA and .918 save percentage. He was Boston's goalie in last season's playoffs, going 7-6.
Dwayne Tim Roloson Thomas
8-3 Playoff record8-3
23 Goals against24
389 Shots against378
366 Saves 354
.941 Save percentage .937