Plus: How Roloson moves on mentally from every game; Thomas provides bulletin board material, and more in the May 23 Update.
All reports indicate Dwayne Roloson will be back in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 Monday in Boston after being pulled for the second time in three games over the weekend, and the veteran stopper doesn’t have to look far for perspective.
Inside the small green shamrock painted on the back plate of Roloson’s Lightning mask are the initials “KR” and the letters “TDLO.”
The initials are for Kelly Ryan, who attended the summer goaltending schools run by Roloson and Bob Mason, the long-time Minnesota Wild goalie coach, and the second set of letters stands for “The Dream Lives On.”
As Tampa Tribune writer Martin Fennelly detailed in touching fashion recently, both have special meaning to Roloson, who befriended the youngster at goalie school and was devastated when Ryan was killed last spring while riding his bike home at the far-too-young age of 12.
“The dream lives on, that’s true,” Phil Ryan, Kelly’s father, told The Tribune. “Every day I watch Roli in the playoffs, even though Roli’s name is on the sweater, … Kelly is there. He’s in the Eastern Conference Finals.”
“I’m honored to have him with me,” said Roloson, who also has the names of his own young sons, Brett and Ross, painted on the back of his mask. “Kelly? He was the little guy with the smile, asking hundreds of questions, wanting to learn. He was just a phenomenal kid, very talented, very skilled. Every day he came to camp, he was happy.”
Roloson, who said Ryan had “scholarship potential, has since added the Kelly Ryan Best Camper Award for the most dedicated goalie at his annual summer goalie schools in his hometown of Simcoe, Ontario. And then there is the mask, which started with the New York Islanders earlier this season and a backplate with a huge green shamrock, Ryan’s number 30. And the words: “To Kelly … Your dream lives on …” The story is must read (but have the kleenex handy), and a reminder that Roloson will have no problem putting things in perspective when he gets back in goal for Game 5. He’ll see it as he puts his mask on.
Smith on board with sitting behind Roloson
Mike Smith followed up his potentially career-salvaging performance in relief of Roloson in Game 4 by saying right after Roloson should be back between the pipes for Game 5. That didn’t change after practice between games, according to the St. Petersburg Times:
“I understand my role,” Smith said. “As a backup goaltender, you have to be ready when you get a chance to play. So far, I’ve taken advantage of that. But like I said, Dwayne’s our guy right now, and I understand the role he’s played in getting us this far. I’m going to do everything I can to support him, and if I get another chance to get in, I’ll be ready to go.”
Though all signs pointed to Roloson returning (and only one of the three goals that beat him on nine shots was a bad one). Boucher wasn’t saying for sure, which may have a lot to do with not allowing the Bruins to prepare for the differences between the two – most notable is how more actively and accurately Smith plays and passes the puck.
As for Roloson, the 41-year-old has rules in place to ensure he isn’t dwelling too long on getting yanked for the second time in the series so far, or statistics that have gone from a 2.01 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage coming into the Eastern Conference finals, to a 5.64 goals-against average and an .820 save percentage in his last three starts. According to The Times, Roloson gives himself 12 hours to think about the last game, good or bad, and talks a lot about having “amnesia.”
“Actually, I felt great. It’s probably the best I felt in the series,” he told The Times of Game 4, adding he doesn’t feel like he needs to re-establish himself. “Not at all. I just have to go out and play my game, nothing different, that’s it; same thing that I’ve said since I got here; just give us a chance to win.”
Thomas makes promise, provides bulletin board material in process
The initial reports included the context: Tim Thomas, having just surrendered a 3-0 lead in a Game 4 loss, was asked if he had any sense of how the series would turn out. His answer, according to Canada’s Sun Media chain, included a big smile:
“Yeah,” Thomas said at the end of a scrum in front of his locker, “we’re going to win. I mean, I don’t know how it’s going to be at any one time in any one game. What’s important is that we come back in Game 5 and win the game, however we do it. Hopefully, we do it playing the type of game that we like to play or, if things don’t work exactly that way, that we find a way to win. One way or another.”
Innocent enough in context. But by the next morning the quite had been shortened to: “We’re going to win,” and was being used as a motivational tool by a Tampa Bay team run by a coach with a psychology background. It was put to Boucher in the form of a guarantee at his press conference the next day, and garnered a predictable response:
“I heard about that,” Boucher said. “We heard we were easy to play before last game. And, well, I guess we should have stayed home.”