Dwayne Roloson walked off the ice in Brandon, out of breath, with sweat dripping down his chin and his cheeks as red as a flashing goal lamp.
He has seen a lot of those red lights this season.
An on-ice morning session led by Guy Boucher is intense enough to make any player tired. That’s just what Roloson was as he sat down in the locker room following practice on Tuesday, not only from the extra two hours of work he put in, but also from talking about his age.
Yet, with the Lightning off to a 1-3-2 start, that’s where his critics begin to pinpoint the cause of the team’s recent struggles to start the new season.
“It’s frustrating,” Roloson said. “But you have to put your frustrations in the right avenues and stay as positive as you possibly can to get out of this.”
There are certain portions of last season’s schedule that indicate he will get out of this.
In a stretch from early to late March, spanning nearly the entire month, Tampa Bay dropped 10 of 12 games, causing some to wonder if the magical season would fall just short of a postseason berth for the fourth consecutive year.
Just when it seemed the team’s hopes of making the playoffs appeared to be in jeopardy, the Bolts went out and won seven of their final eight games to conclude the regular season. Roloson was in net for four of those victories and allowed no more than two goals in each.
When the Lightning did finally reach the postseason, it was Roloson who backstopped Tampa Bay all the way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. It was a destination that would not have been reached had the Lightning net minder not earned a victory in each of his team’s four elimination games along the way.
So far this season, things couldn’t be more different.
Despite his age – Roloson turned 42 last week – the Lightning goaltender says he is up for the challenge to take on this season and hopefully help his team recover quickly from what has been a sluggish start.
“Physically, the challenge is there," Roloson said. "Mentally, the challenge is there. It’s the execution that has been missing,” he said.
Being an NHL goaltender is an uncompromising occupation and one that is usually accompanied by little sympathy. Goals get tacked on to a net minder’s record even if teammate blunders are to blame and defensive zone coverages are poor. Being the last line of defense, however, comes with a price.
“Roloson is the only one with a little red light that goes off behind him and says ‘You made a mistake,’ ” Boucher added.
Although still early on in the new season, Roloson’s errors have mostly been the result of allowing too many short-side goals, which have been exacerbated by poor footwork and being out of position at the wrong times.
Even so, the early challenges facing the Lightning hardly start with their goaltender alone.
“We’re not worried about him,” Boucher added. “We certainly haven’t lost faith in him.”
Added Roloson: “An old coach once said to me you have 12 hours. After 12 hours, you forget about the game. That’s what I’m trying to do.”