Dwayne Roloson: The Answer to the Tampa Bay Lightning Goaltending Dilemma?

Stefan KubusAnalyst IJanuary 3, 2011

UNIONDALE, NY - NOVEMBER 17:  Dwayne Roloson #30 of the New York Islanders tends net against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Nassau Coliseum on November 17, 2010 in Uniondale, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

For a team that has been back-and-forth between first and second in the Southeast Division over the past couple of weeks, one could safely assume that the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing some pretty darn good hockey, which they are.

The thing is, they have been doing it, remarkably, with sub-par goaltending. Mike Smith and Dan Ellis have not worked out as hoped between the pipes in Tampa. Rookie netminder, Cedrick Desjardins, has come on in the last two games against the Canadiens and Rangers, winning both games and allowing only two goals combined quite impressively.

However, coach Guy Boucher has said numerous times, including in the press conference following the 2-1 overtime win against New York on New Year's Day, that the plan is still to have Desjardins play those two games, and then send him back down to Norfolk in the AHL. 

With a consistent problem between the pipes in Tampa Bay, it was evident some trade was going to be executed prior to the trade deadline in late February.

There were rumors surrounding the Bolts that GM Steve Yzerman had plans to sign former San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov, who had started the year with the KHL's SKA St. Petersburg, collected a poor 8-8-5 record, with a goals-against-average of 3.02 and .888 save percentage, in only 22 games before his contract was mutually terminated due to "family circumstances."

Much of those rumors never made much sense, but since he was a free agent and Tampa was in need of a solid No. 1 goalie, of course his name was thrown in the mix.

Shortly after ringing in the new year with that win against the Rangers Saturday night, Lightning struck again: It was announced that the Bolts had traded young defenseman prospect Ty Wishart to the New York Islanders for 41-year-old, veteran netminder Dwayne Roloson.

Roloson, who has been with the lowly Islanders all season, has been playing phenomenally, with a 2.64 GAA and a .916 save percentage for a New York team that is sitting in 28th place in the league. Just recently, he has been on quite the run, with victories against Tampa Bay, New Jersey and Montreal, in which he only allowed one goal per game.

He then lost to the Rangers, allowing seven goals. Those seven goals came on 52 shots, however, and Roloson still posted a 2.63 GAA and .916 save percentage in the game. His last contest came on Dec. 31, a victory against the Detroit Red Wings, in which he allowed three goals on 42 shots.

Many will say that Dwayne Roloson is no Evgeni Nabokov and, frankly, that's quite a compliment. Nabokov holds nearly all the franchise records for goaltending in San Jose, and did a marvelous job there for more than a decade. With all due respect to Nabokov, he'll always be remembered for one thing: his playoff woes.

Dwayne Roloson took the Edmonton Oilers on a heroic, Cinderella-style run to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. Had he not been injured, there is no question the Oilers would have won that Cup instead of Carolina because of how he was playing, and the momentum Edmonton gained from his play.

He's been in the league a long time so he can help provide another veteran presence in the locker room to lead the young core of the Lightning. He knows how to shut the door, and can provide just what the Lightning have needed from day one in net: stability.

Roloson played two less games with the Islanders this season than Dan Ellis has played with Tampa Bay, yet Roloson has faced 629 shots and Ellis has faced only 595 shots. The Lightning have been at the top of the ranks in allowing the least amount of shots on goal per game on average, a statistic Guy Boucher has taken pride in.

For Roloson to come from a team that allowed a significant amount of shots per game, to a team that has excellent shot-blocking defensemen, it will boost, not only his individual numbers deservedly so, but the number of wins the Lightning accumulate throughout the season.

It will be interesting to see how he plays in his first game, which should come tomorrow night against Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals. This move may just have been the confidence boost the Lightning needed on the back end as they continue their brilliant season, and on into the playoffs.