It was only a matter of time. There was no way 41-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson was going to keep up the .941 save percentage he brought into the Eastern Conference Finals against the Boston Bruins. Even as a netminder known for stepping up his game in the postseason, Roloson's career playoff save percentage was 22 points lower than it was through the first two rounds this year. So, as his goalie regressesand the Lightning head into another elimination gamecoach Guy Boucher is left with a dilemma: who should play Game 7 in goal?
Backup Mike Smith, who was given the nod after Roloson struggled in Game 4, played significantly better in Game 5 than the Lightning starter did in Game 6. In 120 minutes between the pipes, Smith has faced 48 shots and stopped 46 of them. His stylemore aggressive than that of Rolosonlends itself to getting pucks out of the zone quicker against the dump-and-chase of the Bruins. It also opens him up to catastrophe.
Smith was torched by the Boston Bruins on December 2, 2010, playing 41 minutes and allowing five goals on 22 shots. Several weeks later, he was put on waivers and eventually sent down to AHL Norfolk. The chance of a complete blowup, mixed with a quick peek at his career stats, would insist that keeping Smith on the bench is an easy call. His save percentage over the last two seasons is only .900. But since he was put on waivers, Smith has been a different man.
Having more than two months between NHL starts, on March 3, Smith played again against Boston, losing 2-1 while stopping 26 of 28. Since coming back (including playoffs), he has stopped 201 of 213 shotsgood for a .943 save percentage. In his final two starts of the regular season, the 29-year-old stopped 73 of 75 shots, including a shutout of Chicago on April 3.