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InGoal Daily Update: Leighton sad to leave Philly

InGoal Daily Update: Leighton sad to leave Philly

… Plus Roloson perfect in Tampa Bay debut, unlikely help for Budaj, brutal bounce for Hedberg, and more in Jan. 5 Daily Update.

New Tampa Bay Goalie Dwayne Roloson

Goaltender Dwayne Roloson had a perfect debut with the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday. (Photo by Scott Slingsby)

Dwayne Roloson wasted little time making a good impression on his new Tampa Bay teammates.

Just one day after arriving in a trade from the New York Islanders, the 41-year-old made his Lightning debut with the Southeast Division lead on the line against rival Washington and made 34 saves for the shutout in a 1-0 overtime win over sizzling Semyon Varlamov and the Capitals.

After the game – the 533rd of a 17-year career that started with kick saves in college before transforming into a butterfly technician – Roloson showed exactly why he is such a good fit in Tampa Bay during his post-game interviews for a summary story on

“No, not at all,” Roloson said of being nervous. “I think our college coach said, ‘If you’re nervous, then you’re not prepared.’ So I was prepared for the game and just wanted to go out and relax and play my game. … You’re just trying to worry about what you have to do to help the team win, especially with the new environment and everything else. There’s a lot of different things going on so for me personally, I was just trying to focus on what I had to do and control the things I could control and give our guys a chance to win.”

It’s exactly that attitude that should allow Roloson to have success with the Lightning. As InGoal documented in its original analysis of the trade, Roloson has experience in the kind of often troublesome three-goalie rotation the Lightning have created with Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, his experience playing behind the old trap-happy Wild under Jacques Lemaire should steel him mentally for the low shot totals (but still good chances) that Smith and Ellis were struggling to adjust to in Tampa Bay, and he knows his own game well enough that he won’t allow anyone to make him play deeper in the net, a problem for Ellis.

Roloson also has plenty of experience having to share time and wait for his starts, but that appears to be a problem for others now, because just 15 minutes after his winning his Tampa Bay debut, Lightning coach Guy Boucher told reporters Roloson would start again in the second half of back-to-back games Wednesday against another tough out, the Pittsburgh Penguins. It’s an interesting call for aging goalie that has been through a lot since being traded three days ago, one worth watching if the Lighting start to overplay Roloson at the expense of their other goalies rhythm (Ellis has now watched three straight after rookie call up Cedrick Desjardins won his NHL debut and was also quickly rewarded with another start).

“I’ll decide right now,” Boucher said right after the game. “He’s in net.”

The game highlights below have plenty of great examples of Roloson’s more aggressive top-of-the-crease positioning, and the evolution from slider back to more of a skater that were documented in that article:

Of course those highlights also show a better commitment to defense than the Lightning showed in getting blown out by the Capitals in two previous meetings, when the top Tampa Bay players were admittedly guilty of trying to outscore Washington’s stars. It’s something several players talked about before and after the game, and something others should keep in mind when analyzing the stats of Smith and Ellis.

Leighton packs his bags after clearing waivers

Philadelphia Flyers Goalie Michael Leighton makes a practice save

Goalie Michael Leighton is headed back to the AHL after clearing waivers. (Photo by David Hutchison)

Michael Leighton’s career-long journey through the NHL, including five claims and changes of teams since the lockout, has been well documented here at InGoal over the past week, including a close look (with video and an 1-on-1 interview) at the important changes he made in his game after his second waiver wire claim by the Flyers midway through last season.

But for Leighton there was no comfort in clearing waivers this week unclaimed and being sent to Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms on Wednesday.

Leighton had hoped to attract interest from another NHL team, but with a salary cap hit of over $1.5-million for this year and next was passed over even by a New York Islanders team that traded Dwayne Roloson to Tampa Bay on Saturday and then lost Rick Dipietro to injury Monday.

The Islanders instead called up Kevin Poulin from the AHL to back up Nathan Lawson, though there is still a chance the oft-injured Dipietro, who insisted his groin strain is not a serious setback, could be ready to play in time for New York’s next game on a Western road trip Friday in Edmonton.

As for Leighton, he shared the disappointment of being sent down seven months after backstopping the Flyers to Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, and just six after signing a two-year, $3.1-million contract extension with the Philadelphia Daily News:

“The hardest part is once you think you have security in life, you sign a two year deal, and you come into camp thinking you’re a starting goalie,” Leighton said. “Going from that mindset, to being injured and working to get that spot back, to going to the minors … It’s tough. … It’s going to be tough on me and my family. … It’s tough to leave. I love all of these guys in the [locker] room, these guys become family. On the other hand, I’m not gone. I’m still part of the organization. I’ve got to work hard and try to get back.”

Leighton’s season was derailed by back surgery in October and his roster spot was won by impressive Russian rookie Sergei Bobrovsky and former playing partner Brian Boucher. He didn’t waste any time leaving, packing his bags for the minors minutes after clearing waivers, but if there was any bitterness he didn’t direct it at anyone but himself, according to the Daily News:

“The only thing I’m disappointed in is myself and the fact that I got injured. There’s nothing I could do about that. Everyone keeps telling me that it’s not my fault for what happened. If one of these guys weren’t playing well, it would’ve made their decision a little easier. Both of these guys are playing well. I just haven’t played a lot.”

Colorado’s Budaj gets save from unlikely source to beat Buffalo

Colorado’s Peter Budaj finished with 37 saves in a 4-3 overtime win over Ryan Miller and the Sabres on Tuesday night, but the biggest stop of the night in the Avalanche net actually went to a Buffalo forward.

With the game tied 3-3 late in the third and the Sabres on a power play and Budaj sprawled out on his belly, Buffalo forward Luke Adam had an empty net and the puck on his stick atop the crease. But his shot hit the stick of teammate Tyler Ennis on the goal line and, after a lengthy video review, it was determined the puck never crossed the line:

Adding to the injury, Ennis was in the penalty box when Colorado scored the winning goal in overtime. It’s just been that kind of year for the scuffling Sabres.

Hedberg bad luck as Devils bad season continues

Speaking of “that kind of year,” the New Jersey Devils are having one themselves. Focus on the well-documented misery of one of the NHL’s winningest franchises the last two decades has shifted from $100-million man Ilya Kovalchuk to long-time crease saviour Martin Brodeur, a future first ballot Hall of Famer who has been forced into a split-duty rotation with Johan Hedberg by new coach Jacques Lemaire.

Tuesday was Hedberg’s turn, and the bounce on the winning goal is indicative of the Devils’ season:

About The Author

Kevin Woodley

Kevin Woodley is a rec-league target and former contributing editor of the Goalie News magazine. He has written about the Vancouver Canucks and NHL for The Associated Press, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and The Hockey News for the last decade, and covered the 2010 Olympics for The AP.