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Dwayne Roloson #35 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save in the first period . (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) (Greg Fiume/2011 Getty Images)
Dwayne Roloson #35 of the Tampa Bay Lightning makes a save in the first period . (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) (Greg Fiume/2011 Getty Images)

Dwayne Roloson, ageless wonder Add to ...

As with every season in April, a lot of the focus was on the goalies heading into the playoffs.

Could Tim Thomas lead the Bruins deep given his regular season success? How would Roberto Luongo perform? Was Pekka Rinne for real? And how far could the Philadelphia Flyers really get with their three-headed monster?

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Almost three weeks into the postseason, however, the name at the top of the list statistically is one few were mentioning coming in, a 41-year-old journeyman who has done this once before.

Here are the playoff save percentage leaders among the eight remaining starting goaltenders:

  1. Dwayne Roloson, TB, .947
  2. Jimmy Howard, Det, .930
  3. Michal Neuvirth, Was, .928
  4. Tim Thomas, Bos, .924
  5. Roberto Luongo, Van, .921
  6. Brian Boucher, Phi, .914
  7. Pekka Rinne, Nsh, .903
  8. Antti Niemi, SJ, .894

Roloson was again terrific last night in Washington, as Tampa was out shot 37-23 but found a way to win in overtime. His run is starting to look like what he accomplished with the Oilers in 2006, when they went all the way to Game 7 of the finals after picking up Roloson late in the year.

Lightning GM Steve Yzerman added Roloson via trade from the Islanders on New Year's Day, giving up defenceman Ty Wishart, a former first-round pick for a half season from a 41-year-old who had been playing well for a non-playoff team in Long Island for a year and a half.

At the time, Tampa had a terrific 23-11-5 record, but that was with some of the worst goaltending in the league, with both Dan Ellis and Mike Smith posting under .890 save percentages. Roloson had a .912 the rest of the way, but the Lightning slipped to fifth in the East by the end of the season.

And despite the fact they closed the year 7-2-0, few seemed to take Tampa as a serious contender.

Now they're up 2-0 on the Capitals and heading back to Florida for two games.

"He's been making a lot of great saves in these playoffs," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said after Game 2. "Obviously to win against a team like that, you're going to need that every game because they've got so much firepower that any moment any of their shots can go in. You certainly need to rely on a goaltender that's doing that well."

"I think he's been our best player," Simon Gagne told the St. Petersburg Times heading into the playoffs. "You want a goalie who can give you confidence and make big saves when you need them. Roli can do that for us."

Roloson's only the third goaltender aged 40 or over to win six or more games in the playoffs, with only Jacques Plante with the St. Louis Blues in 1969 (eight wins) and Dominik Hasek with the Detroit Red Wings in 2007 (10 wins) ahead of him.

It's safe to say, too, that while he's playing like this, there'll be plenty of teams interested in signing him in the off-season.

 

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