Martin Fennelly Columns
Games like this are why Lightning need to roll with Roloson
It's why they brought him here. For a night like tonight. Let's get that straight if Dwayne Roloson, as expected, steps back between the pipes for the Tampa Bay Lightning at TD Garden in Boston for the crucial Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Bruins. A few months back, Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher decided, long before the playoffs were a reality, that Roloson was the guy they needed for any postseason chance.Dan Ellis wasn't enough. Neither was Mike Smith. They would roll with Roli -- and they have to roll with him now. The Lightning wouldn't be anywhere near where they are now, two wins from the Stanley Cup Finals, without their 41-year-old fountain of youth. Yes, that fountain has sprung a leak or two the past few weeks, getting the hook no less than twice against the Bruins. All 21,000 people at the Forum, including Roloson, know that the third goal he allowed in Game 4, well, that can't go in. Not that Roloson could stop any of those turnovers or assorted defensive breakdowns. But Boucher put it best when he said, "This isn't about fault, it's about winning." And that the Lightning did, in amazing fashion, storming back from three goals down to win Game 4, and a lot of it rested on the shoulders of Smith, who stopped everything Boston threw at him after replacing Roloson. It was a nice moment for Smith, who we all thought the Lightning were done with when he was sent to the minors in February, and who probably won't be in Tampa next season, and who until Game 4 was mostly going to be regarded as a bust, the main guy the Lightning got for trading Brad Richards to Dallas in 2008. By the way, it's no certainty that Roloson will be back with the Bolts next season. But he's here right now. And a night like this is why. You have to go with him. Seriously, you have to go with the guy you think can win you six games over the next three weeks -- the Lighting are that close. Who, when he's on his game, gives them the best chance? Is it Mike Smith -- really? I still say it's Roloson, no matter what happened in Game 2 or 4 of this series. He brought the Lightning this far. He was a rock as they stormed back against the Penguins to win in seven games. He pushed past that softie he allowed in Game 4 of that series and pushed on, never looking back. I'm not saying he'll get it done in Game 5, but you don't turn away from him now. There is nothing so fragile in sports, moment to moment, as goalie's psyche. They can be Hercules, guarding the entire city, or they can curl up in a fetal ball. They're often as good as their next game. That red light can make cowards of them all. The great ones, or even the good ones, possess that ability to block it out and stand right up again. I love the way Mike Smith played the other night, but he has never started an NHL playoff game. Ever. It's a fact. Dwayne Roloson has started dozens. He's a big -- if not the biggest -- reason the Lightning believed they could come this far, and why they have. You roll with Roli, and hope he rolls back to form.