PITTSBURGH - There is a little grey in the playoff beard and at age 41, he is a year older than his rookie NHL coach.
But with a playoff series on the line, you quite literally can't do better than Dwayne Roloson has done in his often unheralded career.
The ageless Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender stopped 36 shots Wednesday night to earn a 1-0 shutout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning and propel his team to a second-round meeting with the Washington Capitals.
"I have to get some new words," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said when asked about Roloson, the netminder who is one year his elder. "He has been terrific for us leadership wise and obviously he has got a lot of insight from things he has seen over the years for moments like this."
Before you cast your Conn Smythe Trophy votes, remember that the mild upset over the Pens, complete with wins in the final three games, came against a Pittsburgh team unrecognizable to the one we have seen the past couple of springs.
Forced to adapt their game without leaders Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they weren't a team to be feared offensively and thus played nicely into the hands of the hard-checking and eager Lightning.
But when the Lightning needed him, Roloson was a rock, no more so than on Wednesday. In six of the seven games he faced more than 30 shots, including
36 in the clincher, emerging as a perfect fit to the air-tight system Boucher has pounded into the heads of the mostly younger Lightning.
And in an incredible stat, Roloson has never lost when he has been in net for a potential playoff elimination game - a perfect 6-for-6 in his career.
With the Lightning facing elimination three times in this series after slipping into a 3-1 hole, the man first-year Lightning GM Steve Yzerman acquired at the trade deadline, did it again.
"He gives us a chance every game he is in net," Lightning veteran Marty St. Louis said. "I'm really proud of the way he handled the series. We can play with so much more confidence when we know that he is back there."
With Roloson doing his thing, the Lightning didn't need much offence in the deciding game. Good thing too because for a change, Marc-Andre Fleury was on his game in the Pittsburgh net making a handful of huge saves to keep the score within one.
Sean Bergenheim's goal set up by a sick backhand pass from Dominic Moore at 5:41 of the second period was the only scoring in the game.
A Penguins squad without Crosby and Malkin was in some ways ripe for the taking, especially from an opponent that plays so relentlessly in the neutral zone.
As the series went on, you could see the younger Lightning players growing up before your eyes as they became accustomed to the tempo and intensity of the playoff game.
They'll be put to the test by the Eastern Conference's top-seed beginning Friday night, but count them out at your own risk. Though Washington had a 4-1-1 edge in their six regular-season meetings with the Lightning.
"The pressure, the intensity, it was all new," said Lightning star Steven Stamkos, who was seeing the first playoff action of his young career. "It's night and day. Until you experience the playoffs first hand, you don't really know what it's all about. It's a little bit more than I was expecting."
Safe to say that the Lightning was a little more than what the Penguins were expecting, especially after Pittsburgh won its first two games in Tampa to open the 3-1 lead.
But in their past three games in Pittsburgh, the Penguins were outscored 14-3. The power play was a joke, going 0-for-5 on Wednesday and 1-for-35 on the series.
"The penalty kill was ultimately what won us this series and (Roloson) is our best penalty killer," Stamkos said. "He came up clutch when we needed him. Just having a guy who knows what takes in the playoffs helps all of us."