Usually it is easy to tell who will start in net for a particular game. It's usually the goaltender off the ice first after the morning skate. If you go by that, Dwayne Roloson will get the start in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. Then again, Mike Smith came off almost immediately after Roloson, and did not do any extra work with the scratches. So, we really know nothing for sure.
Look, most believe Roloson is going to get the start tonight. He has brought Tampa Bay a long way since his acquisition in January and he has been a rock for most of the playoffs. And despite being pulled in two of the past three games, there were enough extenuating circumstances (most notably the bad defense in front of him, forwards included) that it seems a bit premature for coach Guy Boucher to say he has lost confidence in Roloson.
But Boucher also likes to keep opponents guessing, when he can. So when he was asked this morning if Roloson will start in net, he said, "We're preparing like usual. He's preparing like he prepared for all the other games. So, we're prepared."
Asked why he would not just come out and say who is playing in goal, Boucher repeated, "He's prepared. He's done his morning skate like usual. He prepared yesterday. We had a good talk, and he knows what's coming up."
So, what is coming up? Guess we have to wait to see who comes out first for warm-ups to be sure. But there is no doubt the goalies have gone in different directions of late.
Roloson, who entered the series leading the playoffs with a 2.01 goals-against average and .947 save percentage, is 0-2 in his past three games with a 5.64 goals-against average and .820 save percentage. Even so, goaltender coach Frantz Jean said Roloson has been technically correct in net and has just got caught up in the ups and downs of how the team is playing. Smith has stopped all 29 shots he has faced in the series, and Tampa Bay has outscored Boston 7-0 while Smith has played.
So, it's a tough choice. But that's why Boucher and his staff get the big bucks.
Other stuff from the morning skate: Right wing Steve Downie, whose head was pushed off the glass and then bounced off the ice after he was hit by Nathan Horton in the second period of Game 4, participated in the morning skate. Boucher said, basically, Downie is a game-time decision, but a player in the locker room said Downie will play. ... There has been some grumbling in the Boston press about defenseman Tomas Kaberle, whose gaffe led to Tampa Bay's second goal in Game 4. One columnist even called for Kaberle to be benched. But coach Claude Julien said you cannot look at that play in a vacuum, that there was supposed to be support there for Kaberle and there wasn't. "So, according to our system, he's not the only one to blame," Julien said. "The last winning goal, he blocks a shot, makes a great play, and he's trying to get off the ice and we turn the puck over. So, do we keep blaming Kaberle? I think people are a little hard on this guy, and I'm one of those guys who is going to support him." ... Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman also has had a rough go of it lately. A bad giveaway led to one Boston goal in Game 4, and another would have been a goal had not Roloson stopped Greg Campbell. But Boucher said he does not believe Hedman has flattened out some after he made such big strides in his development earlier in the playoffs. "What I like is the fact that we didn't sit him on the bench, and we didn't bring him down even further," Boucher said. "I think (assistant coach) Dan Lacroix, taking care of the defensemen did a very good job with him of calming him down, and he was terrific in the second and third periods and was part of the goals that we got back." ... Boucher on the series being a best-of-three: "I hear best-of-three but I never have that in my mind. It's one game. It's tonight. It's the first five minutes of tonight. That's how I always take it. I never go further than that." ... BruinsBlog.net wondered if the Lightning, for its own purposes, twisted a bit goalie Tim Thomas' comments after Game 3 in which he said he felt "comfortable" while playing. Lightning players turned that into an insult. But the blog made the point that Thomas was complimenting his teammates for sticking with their structure which made his job easier. But that is the way of the playoffs, isn't it? Anything to get your players motivated.