It's win or go home Friday for Tampa Bay. That's why the Lightning will be glad to have Dwayne Roloson
No one has been better in elimination games than "Rolie the Goalie." Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in Boston will be the eighth elimination game in his NHL career -- and he's won the first seven, including Thursday's 5-4 victory that pushed the series to the limit.
That was Roloson's fourth win in as many games this year when his team faced the prospect of going home if it lost -- the first three came in the opening round against Pittsburgh. He also went 3-0 in elimination games for Minnesota in 2003, winning Games 5, 6 and 7 in the Western Conference Semifinals against Vancouver. The 7-0 mark in elimination games equals the record set by the Islanders' Glenn "Chico" Resch, who won his first seven such games in 1975. (A bad omen for Roloson: Resch lost the eighth, in the same circumstances -- when a win would have gotten his team into the Final.)
In all, Roloson has allowed just 13 goals in the seven win-or-go-home games, and Wednesday's win marked the first time he allowed more than two goals in an elimination contest.
At age 41, Roloson can also set an NHL record with a win Friday. The Game 6 victory was his 10th of the playoffs, tying Dominik Hasek
for the most wins in a single playoff year by a goaltender age 40 or older.
Rolling a 7 --
The Bruins have had a lot more practice at playing in Game 7s, but percentage-wise, the Lightning have been a lot better at it.
Friday will mark the Bruins' 21st Game 7, including a 4-3 overtime win against Montreal in their first-round series this year. They've split the first 20 -- though all 10 wins (and six of the losses) have come in Boston. The victory in last month's Eastern Conference Quarterfinals ended a four-game losing streak in Game 7s; before beating the Canadiens, the Bruins hadn't won a Game 7 since 1994.
The Lightning have played only three Game 7s, but they've won all three, including a 1-0 victory at Pittsburgh in the first round this year. The Lightning are the only team that has played more than one Game 7 to have a perfect record. Tampa Bay has won all three Game 7s by a single goal -- in addition to the victory against the Penguins last month, the Lightning beat Philadelphia 2-1 in the Eastern Finals and Calgary 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final in 2004.
"Who would you rather play?" --
It's a popular question -- one the Vancouver Canucks
undoubtedly have been asked numerous times as they wait for the Eastern Conference Finals to play out. The usual answer is some derivative of "it doesn't matter" -- but if history is any guide, the Canucks should root for Tampa Bay to win Game 7.
The Canucks have dominated the Lightning since Tampa Bay entered the NHL in 1992, going 15-5-2-1 in 23 games, including 9-0-2-1 at home. The Lightning's lone win in Vancouver came Dec. 11, in a 5-4 shootout victory. Vancouver is 6-5-0 at Tampa, though the Lightning have won in the only two visits by the Canucks since 2002.
In contrast, the Canucks have been dominated by the Bruins since entering the NHL in 1970. Vancouver has beaten the Bruins just 25 times in their 108 meetings, the fewest wins by the Canucks against any team they've played 100 or more times. That includes an 8-38-7-1 mark in Boston, one of the worst marks by any team in any city.
Unaccustomed role --
No matter which team they play in the Stanley Cup Final, the Vancouver Canucks
will enter the series in an unfamiliar role -- the favorite.
The Canucks qualified for the Final this year after winning the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's regular-season champion for the first time, giving them the home-ice edge throughout the playoffs. In contrast, both of their previous appearances in the Final came against the team that had finished first in the regular season.
The 1982 Canucks, who made the Final despite getting only 77 points in 80 games, were the biggest underdogs ever -- they were playing the New York Islanders
, who piled up 118 points, 41 more than Vancouver. Not surprisingly, the Islanders swept the series.
Vancouver also was an underdog in 1994, when the Canucks' 85 points were 27 less than the New York Rangers
' League-leading 112. The Canucks took that series to seven games before losing.
This time, the Canucks will be playing a team that finished 14 points behind them -- Boston and Tampa Bay both ended their seasons with 103 points.
The sixth-attacker goal by Vancouver's Ryan Kesler
that sent Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals into overtime and gave the Canucks the opportunity to eliminate San Jose in double overtime was just the second game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation so far in the playoffs. Nashville's Shea Weber
had the other one, in Game 5 of the opening round against Anaheim. On both occasions, the team that forced overtime won the game.
Boston's David Krejci
scored three times in Thursday's 5-4 loss to Tampa Bay in Game 6 -- only the second hat trick scored in the playoffs this year. He's just the fourth player in this century to score three times in a conference final game, but the first to do it for the team that lost the game.