The Tampa Bay Lightning had its season on the brink not too long ago, as it trailed Pittsburgh 3-1 in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The deficit appeared deep, but the Lightning had a trump card in their pocket in goalie Dwayne Roloson, who aside from playing exceptionally well this postseason, also boasted a perfect career record when facing elimination in the playoffs.
With Roloson in net, the Lightning have won not just the three straight needed to defeat the Penguins, but three more to start their second-round series with the top-seeded Capitals. That's six playoff wins in a row.
If the Lightning wind up winning the Stanley Cup this spring -- as far off as that prospect is right now -- Roloson already has made a compelling case to be the Conn Smythe Trophy front-runner. He leads the League with 7 postseason wins and leads all goalies with more than two appearances with a 1.92 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage. He's done this while playing nearly 40 minutes more than any other goaltender in the playoffs and facing 36 more shots than any other netminder.
In Game 4 of Tampa's second-round series with the Caps on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET, NHLN-US, TSN, RDS), however, things could get interesting, as a quirk in the schedule has the teams playing Games 3 and 4 on back-to-back nights. For the Lightning's 41-year-old goaltender the lack of rest could be an issue.
Just how much of an issue, though, is a mystery. Roloson played back-to-back games five times this season, but only twice after he was traded to Tampa Bay on Jan. 1. In both cases with the Lightning, Roloson did not perform well in the second game. He gave five goals in an 8-1 loss to Pittsburgh on Jan. 5, allowed in five goals in a 6-4 loss at Carolina on Jan. 15.
Those numbers are a small sample size to be sure, but the numbers are not overly encouraging.
If there is any silver lining for Tampa Bay, it's that both of Roloson's back-to-backs with the Bolts required the Lightning to travel overnight between games -- from Washington to Pittsburgh on Jan. 4-5 and from Tampa Bay to Raleigh, N.C. on Jan. 14-15. For this back-to-back, both games will be at the St. Pete Times Forum, so any rest Roloson has gotten will be in his own bed.
That alone could be enough rest to keep the torrid Roloson simmering Wednesday, but if he falters in Game 4, it may be a sign to coach Guy Boucher that there will need to be some time management with his goaltender. And even with a 3-0 series lead, in the postseason available time can be scarce.
You've got to focus on playing good hockey. When we do that we give ourselves a chance to win games. Win games and then maybe we''ll have a chance at the end. You can't worry about something like (the division title) when we're not playing our best hockey down the stretch. We'll figure things out together the way we always do and get back on the right page.
— Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews after loss to Flyers on Wednesday left them five points out of first place in Central Division