Patience pays off for Roli

DEREK VAN DIEST, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

Heading into the season, there were calls it might be time to put Dwayne Roloson out to pasture.

At 39, with Mathieu Garon the anointed starter and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers the heir-apparent, some figured the veteran had served his purpose and become obsolete.

Yet his play this season has proven otherwise, and his outstanding performance Saturday against the San Jose Sharks accentuated the point.

REGAINED JOB?

Roloson has almost surely regained his starting job.

"I've seen it virtually all year long," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "He patiently waited his opportunity when Mathieu was playing so well at the start of the season. Then when he got it, he took advantage and he's played very well."

Roloson was spectacular in the 3-2 overtime victory over the Sharks. The Oilers would not have been in the contest had it not been for the play of their goaltender, who turned away 41 shots in the win.

It was nearly a repeat of the performance Roloson had in San Jose in March last year, making 48 saves in a 2-1 shootout win that kept the Oilers' slim playoff hopes alive.

"For him, it's the physical skill and the mental skill," MacTavish said.

"He's reading passes from behind the net, he knows where all the threats are and he's been one step ahead of the game.

"He's moving well side to side. He made a great save on (Devin) Setoguchi who faked the shot on the short side then wrapped it around quickly and Roli was right there. He's right on top of his game."

Roloson appears to have recaptured the form that backstopped the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals three seasons ago. One could say he's playing even better.

Back then the native of Simcoe, Ont., had the knack of making fortunate saves with the knob of his stick, the tip of his skate or backside of his pants.

There is nothing fortunate about the stops he's been making lately.

Positionally, Roloson has been outstanding.

"My old goalie coach used to say you're never as good as you think you are and you're never as bad as you think you are," Roloson said. "There's games where we've lost where I thought that I've played awesome and there are games that we've won where I didn't think I played that well. For a goalie, it's a little bit different the way you judge yourself."

It's not as though Roloson was bad last season. He finished the year with a 15-17 record, a 3.05 goals against average and a .901 save percentage.

Garon was simply better, wrestling the starting job away essentially forcing the Oilers hand.

This season Roloson is doing the forcing, by accepting his role at the beginning of the season, biding his time and making the most of his opportunities.

The Oilers have had little choice but to keep playing him.

"I think last year I just put way too much pressure on myself to do too much," Roloson said. "Once you get into that mindset, it's hard to get out of. I just looked into this summer, looked back and saw what happened where, saw what I did wrong and what I can do different and used it as a learning experience.

"I just worked on the things that I needed to work on. It was just making sure you are mentally in the right spot."

STANLEY CUP FINAL

Acquired from the Minnesota Wild just prior to the trade deadline during the 2005-2006 season, Roloson backstopped the Oilers to the Stanley Cup final before injuring his knee in the opening game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Oilers went on to lose the series in seven games.

That summer the Oilers re-signed the veteran to three-year deal, which expires at the end of this season.

"Like fine wine, I get better with age I guess," smiled Roloson. "But the wear and tear on my body is not as tough as maybe some guys that came into the league when they were 18. I came into the league a little later so physically I'm okay. I'm in great shape, I feel good and I want to keep playing as long as I can - as long as I feel good."

So far this season, Roloson has looked good.

Of all the problems the Oilers have had trying to keep pace with the rest of the teams in the Northwest Division goaltending hasn't been one of them.

Roloson has a 5-4 record with a 2.74 goals against average and .920 save percentage.

"To me it's just another day coming here and enjoying what I do," he said.

"I'm one of those few people in the world that love going to work every day. I'm fortunate and blessed because of that. I'm just trying to enjoy my whole time here."


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