Rolie the Goalie
Roloson, at 36, finally getting his due
Oilers 2, Sharks 0
Edmonton wins series 4-2
Rather than give a detailed runthrough of what happened in last night's game, I'm just going to pick a player from the winning team and go from there.
CBC reporter Scott Oake, following last night's game: "Are you playing the best hockey of your life, Dwayne?"
Dwayne Roloson: "No, this is how I play. This is how I played in Minnesota."
You could almost sense that Roloson was suppressing the strongest eyeroll urge of his life at that moment.
But some of us remember. It was, after all, only three years ago.
That year, the Simcoe, Ontario, native posted the third-best goals-against average (2.00) and second-best save percentage (.927) in the NHL. The Minnesota Wild finished that season with 42 wins and 95 points, good for sixth in the Western Conference and the franchise's first (and only) playoff berth.
After his counterpart Manny Fernandez led the team through a first-round upset over the Colorado Avalanche, Roloson stepped into the Wild goal in Round 2 with his team trailing the Vancouver Canucks 3-1 in the series.
Despite the fact his team was heavily outshot the next three games, Roloson allowed just five goals in Games 5, 6 and 7.
And it was onto Round 3.
So let's not pretend like he hasn't been there before. Roloson's certainly not.
Maybe that's because he remembers how things went for the underdog Wild in Round 3 against the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. (They were swept, scoring just two goals in the four-game series.)
As one can imagine, there's likely just a little apprehension for Roloson. The journey's far from over, and all that jazz, and if the team in front of him can't score against a Ducks team that — despite all its roster changes — plays awfully similar to that one in 2003, then Roloson can't really win this thing on himself.
And next year, it'll be back to stupid question time following Round 2.
But being under-appreciated is nothing new for Roloson. He's under-sized — 6 foot 1, 175 pounds — and was never drafted. He also never played Canadian major junior hockey, instead plowing his way through lower Ontario junior leagues with a handful of teams: the Simcoe Penguins, Simcoe Rams and Norwich Merchants (all Jr. C); the Belleville Bobcats and Thorold Black Hawks (both Jr. B).
Even then, at age 20, he was getting old for lower-level junior hockey. But his tenure paid off when this kid from small-town Ontario signed on with UMass-Lowell of the NCAA, a school that doesn't have a tradition of graduating players to the NHL. Even getting to the school was a longshot:
UMass-Lowell assistant coach Blaise MacDonald scouted Roloson when Thorold played at Wellington in a junior game back in 1990.
MacDonald brought his goalie coach along. Thorold was badly outplayed, but Roloson kept them in it, pushing the game to overtime.
"At that point my goalie coach jotted down a note, but wouldn't show it to me," MacDonald said. "Thorold loses, and Roli shatters his stick over the top of the crossbar. My coach shows me the note. It says, 'If he loses and breaks his stick, we'll take him.' He wanted to see the competitiveness."