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Age nothing but a number for Lightning's Roloson

by | CBS Sports

BOSTON -- It's usually a high honor to be compared to the legendary Jacques Plante as a goaltender, although this time it was also another reminder of the age of Tampa Bay goalie Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson's victory over the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final was his eighth in a row, making him the first quadragenarian to put together a string of wins that long in the playoffs since Plante did it with the St. Louis Blues in 1969.

Lightning players understand Dwayne Roloson is instrumental to having success in the playoffs. (US Presswire)  
Lightning players understand Dwayne Roloson is instrumental to having success in the playoffs. (US Presswire)  
His graying beard silently puts up an argument, but his often acrobatic play during the Lightning's run through the Pittsburgh Penguins and then a sweep of the Washington Capitals this postseason isn't what you'd expect from a 41-year-old. Roloson has a theory why that is.

"I came out of college late," Roloson told CBSSports.com after the Bolts practiced at TD Garden on Monday. "My first three of four years, I played a lot in the minors, but didn't play much in the NHL. I probably feel I have four or five years less wear and tear on my body, maybe more."

Roloson is older than all of his teammates, head coach Guy Boucher and the team's goaltending consultant, Frantz Jean. "He does it with experience," said Jean, explaining Roloson's success. "When you get 15 years in the NHL, that just speaks for itself. He knows how to handle different situations. He's a great leader on and off the ice. Game-wise, he keeps himself in tremendous shape. He's usually that last one off. I'm 40 and I feel much older than he does."

Roloson attributes much of his longevity to California-based strength coach Scot Prohaska, who he began working with 13 years ago. Those strenuous workouts and a strict diet, however, can't protect against all injuries, like the one Roloson suffered in a collision late in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final when he was a member of the Edmonton Oilers in 2006.

Roloson suffered a third-degree MCL tear and didn't play another game in the series. It's taken him this long to get back into the playoffs, let alone within a few games from playing for his first Stanley Cup title.

"You never know when you're going to have that opportunity again," Roloson said. "It's always a special time of the year. Do I focus more on it now [than in playoff runs in past years]? No. I still prepare the same way and do the same things."

Like Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, Roloson isn't a strict "butterfly" goalie that has populated most teams' rosters in recent years. He relies more on his positioning -- a necessity since he's on the smaller side of his position at 6-foot-1 -- and quick reflexes.

Those skills, however, didn't translate to wins earlier this season. He was 6-13-1 in his second season with the New York Islanders before Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman acquired him in exchange for defenseman Ty Wishart on Jan. 1.

"As soon as I heard [of the trade], I sent him a text," said Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim, who was a teammate of Roloson's last season in Long Island. "I was obviously very, very happy to get him on the team. I saw what he could do and what an incredible goalie he is. It was good news."

Roloson became the first Lightning goalie to debut with a shutout and he tacked on three more before the end of the regular season en route to an 18-12-0 record with the Bolts. He currently leads playoff goalies in save percentage (.941) and goals-against average (2.01 goals per game) as well.

"He's playing in front of a defense that has more experience and I think that has helped," Jean said. "The Islanders were dealing with injuries and they had a lot of young players. As a goaltender, that makes for some more dangerous shots."

There weren't many of those in Game 1 of this series. Only five of the 33 shots that Roloson had to stop were from within 20 feet of his net. The two goals he allowed in the Tampa Bay's 5-2 victory came on a breakaway (Tyler Seguin) and a slap shot from the point (Johnny Boychuk).

He will likely see more traffic in Game 2 on Tuesday and a revamped Bruins power play, which had few chances on their four scoreless attempts. The Bruins could also have Patrice Bergeron, their top scorer in the playoffs, back in the lineup.

It's nothing the veteran Roloson can't handle, according to Tampa Bay defenseman Mike Lundin.

"A lot of goalies talk, but he's really calm back there," Lundin said. "He's never screaming or whatever. He settles us all down. In the locker room, he's not the loudest guy, but he steps it up if he needs to. He knows he has our respect and knows when he says something, we're going to listen."

Like the current comparisons to Plante, that comes with age, too.


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