It’s already been quite a tumultuous start for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they move forward into the new year. The forward progress gained just prior to ushering in 2012 was momentarily halted by a 7-1 throttling via a Toronto Maple Leaf team inspired to earn the respect of their home crowd on Tuesday, January 3. A seemingly harmless encounter between forwards Nate Thompson and Ryan Malone at practice turned out to be the cause of a lower-body injury to Malone that has not only taken him out of action for yet another game, as he is not expected to play tonight, it is also the latest addition to an ever-growing list of player injuries sustained to a dwindling Bolts roster.
This evening’s match-up marks goalie Dwayne Roloson’s first start since December 12, 2011. You won’t catch me using statistics very often in general, but most especially when they (statistics) concern net minders. There are numerous reasons for this, most of which I will spare you at that moment, but given that I am a member of what I’ve dubbed “Clan Goalie”, my empathy and understanding of the position is reason enough for the purpose of this post. There are a mighty plethora of places to find and discuss ad nauseum NHL goalie stats. Currently, Roli’s numbers are being thrown around the interwebs and assorted social media networks like dollar bills at a “gentleman’s” club. There’s no need for me toss more “folded bills” at the dimly lit pole, if you will.
My take on Dwayne Roloson is, and has been more positive, than most. Perhaps I am merely supporting a fellow minder of the net(s). Perhaps I know that the speculation provided by everyone, including maybe even by the man himself, about how he will stand-up to the challenge he faces in the blue paint in Ottawa tonight are all thoughts waiting to be confirmed or denied pending the drop of the puck at 7:30 eastern in the Canadian capital city. I’m one of those “positive vibe” sorts, so in my mind, I believe that Roli “The Goalie” got hit with a mental blow right from the start of the season due to unrealistic expectations carried over from the previous post-season success and a combined team effort that left him exposed at the wrong time. In turn, I also believe that he has all the experience and shows all the signs of a net defender who is not ready to call it a career.
The team has done an extraordinary job of working to keep all things in perpective despite a slow start. The backward slide clearly demonstrated by the Bolts on Tuesday has good potential of being a learning situation, still very fresh in thier collective minds. While road games were our boys “Besties” last season, the opposite appears to be the case this season. To continue with my “positive vibes” mantra, I’ll point out that short-handed goals against the Lightning have become something of the past and regardless of which player has been out and why, the guys have displayed a determined ability to battle.
Will the Roli we (and he, I’m guessing) would like to see appear with his magical saves on ice to rob the Sens of precious points? Will the depleted Tampa Bay Lightning have fewer turnovers, work smarter and find both the inner-spark and the unified team spark to light the lamp more often than the hosts of the 2012 All-Star Games? None of us know for sure, but the odds are surely very high that we will NOT see the Lightning who “played” in Toronto just two nights ago. Personally, I give no attention to Dwayne Roloson’s physical age. Some players have it in them to play as long as they still feel the love and want to play. It may just turn out that our Roli “The Goalie” is the “Chris Chelios” of net minders? For our sake and his, let’s hope that is how the Hockey Gods feel as well. GoBolts!
To get an idea of what the Senators have in store in a few short hours for our boys, head on over to SenShot and assess the opponent. Game time is 7:30 pm eastern.