A few additional thoughts on the Tampa Bay Lightning's Dwayne Roloson, who is playing the part of Jaroslav Halak in these playoffs - so far anyway.
Playing for the Montreal Canadiens last year, Halak was largely responsible for dismissing the Eastern Conference's two heavyweights, the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins, in successive series during the Canadiens' run. And though the order is reversed - with Tampa taking out Pittsburgh in the opening round and now having the Caps on the ropes after winning the first two games of the conference semi-finals on the road - this ability to knock off the NHL's marquee teams of the HBO 24/7 special is largely a goaltending phenomenon again. Isn't it great when life gets in the way of marketing initiatives?
Roloson was 18-12-4 in 34 regular-season appearances for the Lightning after joining them in a mid-season trade with the New York Islanders. He has been lights-out great during what is now a five-game playoff winning streak, after Tampa rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against Pittsburgh and then stole the first two games of the series up in Washington, despite Alexander Ovechkin's best efforts in tying it up late in Sunday's game.
There is still a long way for Tampa to go - and maybe the biggest challenge yet comes this week, thanks to the NHL schedule maker, which has the Lightning playing the next two home games on back-to-back days, Tuesday and Wednesday. Normally, there is more recovery time between games in the playoffs and Roloson's handful of tough outings since joining the Lightning have generally occurred when the work load piled up, about the only concession he's made thus far to the numbers on his birth certificate.
But Roloson also had a pretty good role model for learning to play into his dotage - Dominik Hasek, for whom he backed up way back in the 1990s with the Buffalo Sabres, when he landed after his original NHL team, the Calgary Flames, let him go. In fact, I was trying to remember if Roloson ever played in Calgary at the same time as his Lightning teammate Martin St. Louis, another ageless wonder - and another freebie that Tampa received after the Flames couldn't find a spot on their star-studded roster all those years ago. Answer: Yes and no. Roloson signed with the Flames as a free agent in 1994-95 and spent four years in the organization, two in the minors, two in the NHL. Both actually played games for the 1997-98 Saint John Flames - St. Louis had 25 appearances in the second half after he'd signed with the organization, and Roloson played four games for them earlier in the year, but mostly was in Calgary that season. When St. Louis arrived in the NHL the following year, Roloson had already moved on to Buffalo, Calgary having determined he wasn't the answer to their goaltending issues. Still, quite a coincidence that more than a decade later, both would still be playing and thriving in the NHL playoffs, after such a modest beginning.
Five years ago, Roloson went on a similar run with the Edmonton Oilers and it was only when he went out in the finals with an injury - giving way to Ty Conklin and then Jussi Markannen - that the Oilers' run ultimately ended in the seventh game of the 2006 final against the Carolina Hurricanes. It is why Roloson is 6-0 for his career in elimination games - he didn't get to play the final elimination game against Carolina that year. As some posters have already noted, if Roloson stays healthy, maybe the Oilers win the Cup that year - and as the NHL's marketing campaign likes to say, history changes.