Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Cross Checks [Print without images]

Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson making GM Steve Yzerman look good

By Pierre LeBrun

So far, Dwayne Roloson is proving his Lightning boss wasn't crazy for taking a chance on a 41-year-old goalie. The move to bring the netminder to Tampa Bay is also further bolstering the case for Steve Yzerman as GM of the year.

With his team leaking goals for the first half of the season, Yzerman dealt for Roloson on Jan. 1, hoping there was still enough hockey left in the battled-tested veteran to steady a shaky Lightning net and save what was a surprising season so far for the Bolts.

Dwayne Roloson
In 11 games since being traded to the Bolts, Dwayne Roloson has eight wins, four shutouts and a .932 save percentage.

If eight wins in 11 games, plus four shutouts and a .932 save percentage, doesn't define "answering the call," I don't know what does.

The Lightning have won six straight and are only two points behind Philadelphia for the Eastern Conference lead.

"When I first got here, it was a bit of a roller-coaster ride, but things settled down," Roloson told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "As a team, we've adjusted in terms of me getting to know guys and guys getting to know me. We've gone through the adjustment period and it's been great."

In late December, Yzerman was deciding between Roloson, who hasn't posted a save percentage under .900 in over a decade, or Russian exile free agent Evgeni Nabokov, a former Vezina Trophy nominee. Because the latter would have to clear NHL waivers, Yzerman feared it would be a major hurdle and chose Roloson. (The GM was right to be concerned; Detroit signed Nabokov only to lose him, ironically, to Roloson's former cellar-dwelling team, the New York Islanders.)

For Roloson, this is a special time. When you're 41, you don't get too many more chances to play for a Stanley Cup. The latest statement was a 38-save 4-0 shutout win over the powerhouse Flyers on Tuesday night. The adrenalin is pumping through Roloson's veins.

"No discredit to the Islanders' organization, I had a great time there," Roloson said. "It's a great organization, and I keep in contact with a couple of guys there. But I came down here to a team in a playoff spot and that rejuvenates you. It makes you excited again about hockey."

He doesn't have a Cup ring, and he hasn't come close to one since Edmonton's surprising run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006.

"It's in the back of your mind, but at the same time, you try not to think about it too much," Roloson said of the chance at hand. "It's a long way away. And once playoff time comes, anything can happen. Case in point, the 2005-06 run with us in Edmonton. We were the eighth seed in the West and we ended up making it to the [Cup] final. Once you're in, it's a brand new season. You can't look at the big picture, you have to focus on each game."

Roloson has also had a first-row seat to the Steven Stamkos show. He actually played with the NHL's leading scorer at the 2009 IIHF World Championships, so he already had an inkling about the center's abilities.

"He's a great man," said Roloson. "He wants to learn, he wants to get better, he wants that role where the team is relying on him -- he wants to be that guy. Every day, he works on trying to get better. You can't say enough about him. Johnny Tavares in Long Island, same type of kid. It's fun to be around kids like that; all they want to do is succeed and get better every day. It's a cliché, but it's true. I enjoy being around those type of players."

Will Roloson be around Stamkos longer than this season? Throw out the birth certificate. He's not playing like a goalie that is nearing retirement.

"If the opportunity is there, I'd love to keep playing," said Roloson. "Physically, I feel great. As long as performance-wise I'm doing what I needed to do to help a team win, then I want to keep doing that. Hopefully I get an opportunity to play again next year."