As the Eastern Conference finals whittle down to a best-of-three series starting tonight with Game 5, there is just as much focus on who will play goal for Tampa Bay as there is with Boston's three-goal collapse in Game 4.
So who exactly does Guy Boucher turn to for tonight's pivotal matchup against the Boston Bruins — the No. 1 guy who brought Tampa Bay this far or the reliever who shut the door in Game 4 to allow the Lightning's historic comeback?
Well, Boucher refuses to tip his hand, at least definitively if he plans on starting Dwayne Roloson or Mike Smith. And whether he's playing mind games to give the Bruins one more thing to think about heading into tonight or actually needs additional time to come to a decision, Boucher continues to give the impression that Roloson is starting tonight, but has stopped short of making that declaration.
"I don't feel like we've got a situation," Boucher said. "We've got a goaltender (Roloson) that has taken us here. He's played really well, and he's getting prepared for (tonight). We've got a goaltender (Smith) that came in relief and he's done really well. So every time we ask him to come in, he's played well. And we've got a goaltender that has taken us here that knows how to win and knows how to bounce back. So don't feel there's a situation there."
So, that means it's Roloson, right, coach?
"Roloson is getting ready for tomorrow," Boucher said.
Well, for what it's worth, Smith said Sunday he's quite certain it will be Roloson who gets the call even after Smith stopped all 21 shots he saw in relief in Saturday's Game 4 comeback effort.
"I think Dwayne has played exceptional all playoffs long," Smith said. "One period we turn the puck over and it ends up in the net. It's not the fault of him, it's just the team kind of struggled in front of him, so I'm sure he'll come back and be ready to go.
"I understand my role as a backup goaltender, you have to be ready to when you get a chance to play; so far I've taken advantage of that. But Dwayne is our guy right now and I understand the role that he played in getting us this far and I will do everything I can to support him. And if I do get another chance to go in, I'll be ready to go."
One of Roloson's strongest assets is his ability to erase a bad start from his mind and focus on the next task, which he calls his 12-hour rule — after 12 hours, what happened prior no longer exists.
Assuming he does get the call tonight, Roloson will need that mental ability after letting in three goals on nine shots in the first period, including a 48-foot unscreened shot from Patrice Bergeron while Tampa Bay was on a power play. And after leading the postseason in goals-against average and save percentage prior to the start of the conference finals, Roloson is 1-2 with a 4.43 goals-against average with a .854 save percentage in four starts against the Bruins.
"I've said it since the beginning of the playoffs, you have to have amnesia and forget what happens," Roloson said. "As a goalie, things are blown a little bit more out because it's more of an individual, but at the same time it's something that happens all the time. It's part of the game and you just move forward."
With how Roloson has played throughout most of the postseason, and how Smith has looked in relief, stopping all 29 shots he has faced in the series, the rest of the team has high confidence in whichever goaltender is protecting the pipes when the spotlight of Game 5 shines on Tampa Bay's net.
"We are confident in both guys back there," left wing Ryan Malone said. "Smitty kept the door closed and gave us an opportunity to get back in the game (Saturday). Roli has been there for us since we traded for him; he's been a rock back there. So we are confident in both guys."