The last time Dwayne Roloson was in the Stanley Cup playoffs was Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals.
Then backstopping the Edmonton Oilers, Roloson had led the Oilers—an eighth seed in the Western Conference—past the top-seeded Detroit Red Wings in the opening round, the San Jose Sharks in the second round and, finally, the Anaheim Ducks in the Conference Finals before meeting the Carolina Hurricanes in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Interestingly, 2006 seemed to be the year of the underdog with the five-, six-, seven- and eight-seeds advancing past the first round in the West.
While many of the '06 Oilers could be given credit for the Cinderella playoff run, a large piece of it had to be given to Roloson who faced 30-plus shots in 11 of the 17 playoff games leading up to the Finals including a 54-save performance in the playoff opener against the Red Wings. He also had allowed more than three goals just three times.
But as we’ve seen so often in the NHL playoffs, while late seeds can go deep, rarely do they finish the job. And unfortunately for the Oilers, their fate was no different than the Cinderellas before them.
(Miikka Kiprusoff and the sixth-seeded Calgary Flames lost in the Finals in 2003-04 and J.S. Giguere and the seventh place Mighty Ducks of Anaheim had done the same a season before that.)
But you can bet Roloson still wonders what could have been had then Oiler defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron not pushed Carolina forward Andrew Ladd into him during Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals forcing Roloson to sit out the rest of the series with a sprained MCL.
All Roloson could do then was watch his Oilers push the second-seeded Hurricanes to seven games, only to lose 3-1 in the deciding game. The Cinderella slipper didn’t quite fit.
Aside from missing out on a chance to hoist the Cup, many believed Roloson was also a front-runner for the Conn Smythe Trophy prior to his injury.
He never made the playoffs again as an Oiler and after signing with the New York Islanders in the summer of 2009, he missed the playoffs yet again in 2010.
However, after the Tampa Bay Lightning started the 2010-11 season with two shaky and unproven goaltenders in Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman acquired Roloson from Long Island on Jan. 1.
In his first 11 starts with the Lightning, Roloson posted four shutouts and finished the season with a .917 save percentage and a 2.59 goals against average.
Now with the Lightning set to open the playoffs Wednesday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 41-year-old has the chance to give a Stanley Cup run another go. And it’s potentially his last shot.
His Lightning may be far from favorites to win it all as the fifth seed in the East—in fact, they aren’t even favored to win their opening series against the Penguins.
But if Tampa Bay can get consistent offense from their prolific forwards (Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier) and goaltending from Roloson that resembles his performance from the 2006 playoffs (minus the injury), then the Tampa Bay Lighting will be a tough team to shake off and Roloson’s “almost” as an Oiler will be nothing but a distant memory.