If three is a crowd, you'll never get Craig MacTavish to admit it. As the season has taken shape for the Edmonton Oilers, it has been a three-for-all in the Oilers' crease, and you won't hear MacTavish complaining.
"First and foremost, winning is the most important thing," MacTavish said. "Whoever gives us the best chance to win, will be in net. In a three-goalie system, you just have to work and keep yourself ready and you'll eventually get an opportunity at some point. Every goalie has had a bit of an opportunity now and I'm just looking for that one to grab and run with it."
Dwayne Roloson is the elder statesman among the Oilers trio, which includes 30-year-old Mathieu Garon and 24-year-old Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, Roloson realizes it isn't the ideal situation but one he's willing to accept for the benefit of the team.
"It's tough with three guys, but you have three guys working toward a common goal and that's to help the team win, so you tend to help each other," Roloson told NHL.com. "That said, you don't get as much practice time and that's the toughest part about a three-man rotation. You have to rotate and try to get enough work to make sure you feel confident and comfortable, so it's hard but you just have to make due of the situation."
|Edmonton Oilers goalie Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers defends the net against New York Rangers forward Fredrik Sjostrom, of Sweden, during the shootout in an NHL hockey game Monday, Nov. 10, 2008 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Ales Hemsky scored the only goal of the shootout, and the Oilers won 3-2. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) |
In 26 games this season, Roloson has a team-leading 12 appearances. The 39-year-old veteran is 5-4-2 with a 2.74 goals-against average and .920 save percentage. Garon (5-5-0, 3.29 GAA, .892 save percentage) has made 10 appearances. Rookie Deslauriers (3-2-0, 2.73 GAA, .915 save percentage) has played in six games.
As his stats attest, age hasn't gotten the best of Roloson.
"Someone sent me an article that noted 39 is the age where your mind and body are at their peak potential," Roloson said. "Of course it takes a little longer to get warmed up but, at the same time, I'm able to use that past experience in game situations. Preparing for a game might take a little longer and become a little harder, but I'm more accustomed to dealing with the game and the roller-coaster ride. So, mentally, it's easier, but physically, it's harder."
For Roloson, who is in his 11th NHL season and fourth with the Oilers, experience has enabled him to deal with the rotation in Edmonton.
"I think a lot of it is just being around the League as long as I have been," Roloson said. "I'm able to look back on past situations for myself or how other people have handled things and, through that experience, just get through it. It's not an ideal situation, but at the same time it's really out of my control. I can't really do anything about it except just go and play."
Roloson isn't alone in his feelings.
"Having three goalies in the rotation is unusual for an NHL team, but everybody has a role to do and I'm here and glad to be a part of this team and have an opportunity to play in the NHL," Deslauriers said. "It was my dream as a kid and I still have other objectives I'd like to achieve, but when you get the call, you just have to answer it and be ready."
Deslauriers, Edmonton's second-round choice (No. 31) in 2002, says he has benefited from watching Roloson and Garon.
"The experience that Dwayne and Matty bring is great. I'm new, so sometimes I don't know what to expect so I'll talk with them and see what they do in certain situations. That helps me to improve my overall game." - -- Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers
"The experience that Dwayne and Matty bring is great," he said. "I'm new, so sometimes I don't know what to expect so I'll talk with them and see what they do in certain situations. That helps me to improve my overall game."
"It's not the easiest situation for a goalie, but you just have to work hard in practice and stay longer after practice because you don't get as much work," Garon said. "But there's not much I can do about it except prepare and be ready. In practice, three goalies are rotated in two goals so, of course, it's hard because you don't feel as though you're getting enough shots but that's why I'm trying to get to practice early or stay later to get more work."
Oilers defenceman Sheldon Souray knows this situation must be difficult.
"It's not the ideal situation for the goalies for sure since they want the work in net during practice," Souray said. "But we have three goalies playing good and we're lucky because some teams struggle to find one goalie. It'll work itself out, but those are tough decisions that need to be made by the coaches. Whoever's in net, we feel confident. It's true that one goalie will not dress each game, but that has no reflection on how he's playing or what's going on."
|Edmonton Oilers goalie Mathieu Garon (32) makes a save on Colorado Avalanche right wing Marek Svatos, right, of Slovakia, during the second period of an NHL hockey game in Edmonton, Alberta, on Sunday, Oct. 12, 2008. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong) |
Nervousness is a thing of the past for Roloson.
"My college coach once told me nervousness was a sign of being ill prepared, but being slightly nervous is common," Roloson said. "I'm not completely nervous with butterflies anymore. I think it's more the excitement and adrenaline rush of stepping out on the ice with 17-20,000 screaming fans. If you ask anyone, that's the greatest thing."
For Roloson, playing a role for a Stanley Cup-winning team is still the top item on his to-do list. In 2006, Roloson almost accomplished that when he backstopped the Oilers to the Stanley Cup Final before suffering a seven-game series setback to the Carolina Hurricanes. He finished 12-5 with a 2.33 GAA and .927 save percentage in 18 playoffs games that season.
"Realistically, your final destination is winning that last game of the year and I'm not referring to the final regular-season game, but that last one in the playoffs," Roloson said. "I don't really set goals for myself but when you look at the small picture, you have to look at it as a game-by-game situation. When looking at the big picture, those 82 regular-season games and 16 playoff wins are what it's all about."Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.