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Posted by Ryan Porth Labels: 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Boston Bruins, Dwayne Roloson, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tim Thomas
Combined, they are a staggering 78 years old. They play contrasting styles between the pipes. Both have had their share of ups and downs in the third round, alone. It was the matchup most fans were anxious to watch before the series. When the puck drops in Friday’s Game 7 in Boston, it will all come down to the duel between Dwayne Roloson and Tim Thomas.
The way this series has gone, we are in line for a low-scoring contest. Games 2, 4 and 6 were all helter-skelter, back-and-forth affairs. Games 1, 3 and 5 were the opposite, more defensive, with more of a focus on goaltending. The goalies, Tim Thomas in particular, have rebounded from lackluster starts with much better efforts the following game.
Dwayne Roloson continued his perfection in elimination games with a win in Game 6 – but he was far from perfect. The first two goals he surrendered, to Milan Lucic and David Krejci, are ones he’d like to have back. Earlier in the series, he was yanked twice after giving up bad goals. Is the 41-year-old wearing down? Or will he have a much better effort in Game 7?
Roloson is 7-0 in his career when his team is facing elimination, boasting a 1.86 GAA and .936 save percentage in those games. In 2003, he helped the underdog Minnesota Wild come back from a 3-1 series deficit against Vancouver. Last month, ‘Roli’ was instrumental in the Bolts rallying back from the same scenario against Pittsburgh. So coming back from a 3-2 deficit sounds like a piece of cake for Roloson, right?
On the other end of the ice, Thomas has been as inconsistent as the NHL’s Wheel of Justice. He was fantastic in Games 3 and 5, along with the later of stages of a wild Game 2. Other than that, Tampa Bay has lit up the Vezina Trophy finalist.
In Wednesday’s Game 6, Thomas came out of his net way too often and way too easily. He never looked fully composed after he gave up the Lightning’s second goal. The same could be said in Game 4 once Boston lost the momentum.
The 37-year-old product of Vermont will be playing in his third Game 7 of his career; he is 1-1, with his lone win coming earlier this spring against rival Montreal. This will also be Roloson’s third Game 7; he is a perfect 2-0, including his shutout of Pittsburgh in Round 1.
Statistically and historically, the edge would go to Roloson. But given the way Thomas has bounced back from ugly performances just in this series alone, you obviously can’t count him out. Going into the decisive game, I wouldn’t give one the edge over the other.
Since you can expect another close game, the goalie that makes more key stops in the pressure-packed moments will probably prevail. If it’s another high-scoring affair, the one who makes the least amount of mistakes will help his team move on.
This will be the sixth Game 7 of these playoffs; and the storyline in five of them was goaltending. I would expect nothing different when the Bruins and Lightning take the ice on Friday for a chance to meet Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final.
Photos credit: Getty Images
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