Dwayne Roloson has built a reputation as a go-to goaltender when his team faces elimination. The Tampa Bay Lighting will need him to continue his excellence in those situations or their surprising postseason run will be over.
"Our thoughts are we have to go shift-by-shift," Roloson said Wednesday morning before Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. "Sorry if it is cliche-ish, but realistically it is what we have to do. Start with the first one and try to snowball them over and win every shift. We have to go shift-by-shift and try to win a hockey game."
Roloson had the day off for Game 5. Coach Guy Boucher went with backup Mike Smith, who stopped 17 of the 19 shots he faced in a 3-1 loss. Boucher said he told Roloson while the team was still in Boston that he would definitely be back in net for Game 6, and that was his plan regardless of the Game 5 outcome.
The 41-year-old Roloson last took a game off in the final contest of the regular season, when the Lightning eliminated the Carolina Hurricanes with a 6-2 victory.
"I don't think any goalie has played 82 games in a row since they changed the amount of games that we play," Roloson said. "You do it during the regular season, and there is no difference during the playoffs. I think everybody feels rested when they get a day off, so you take it when you can get it."
Roloson has allowed 13 goals in this series while being pulled twice and not playing one contest. That’s the same number he gave up in seven games against Pittsburgh in the opening round.
His .925 save percentage is still fourth among No. 1 goaltenders in this postseason, but his 2.51 goals-against average has dropped to eighth. The Lightning will likely need a performance like the ones he had in the three elimination games against Pittsburgh -- he turned aside 94 of 98 shots in the final three contests of that series, including all 36 he faced in Game 7.
"He's been a horse for us in these playoffs," Steven Stamkos said. "He's battled. He's one of the best competitors on this team. He's going to be ready and willing to prove he's a big reason why we got here as a team. If anything, he's had an extra day's rest and he's ready for tonight."