by PuckStopsHere on 01/03/12 at 05:01 PM ET
Last season the Tampa Bay Lightning finished fifth in the East Conference with 103 points and made the semi-finals. Throughout the much of the regular season they did not have great goaltending. They started the year with Dan Ellis and Mike Smith in goal. Neither of them performed like they belonged in the NHL. In January things changed. The Lightning were able to trade for Dwayne Roloson from the New York Islanders. Roloson was their answer in goal. He posted a solid .912 saves percentage and a 2.56 GAA in the regular season and a .924 saves percentage and a 2.51 GAA in the playoffs. The problem was Roloson was a 41 year old veteran and sooner or later he would slow down.
It appears his slow down has been this season. At age 42, Roloson is posting a league worst .883 saves percentage and 3.72 GAA. Tampa Bay has dropped out of the playoff race as this happened. They currently sit in 12th place in the East Conference with a 17-20 record with three regulation tie points.
Mathieu Garon, who has proven himself to be a backup with limited ability as a starter has taken over as the Tampa Bay number one goalie. It is a stop gap solution which will have to soon be fixed if Tampa is to make anything out of this season.
The loss of their goaltending is a big part of the reason that Tampa Bay has allowed about 0.4 more goals per game this year than they did last year. Over the course of the 37 games played so far this is about 15 extra goals allowed. Their offence has also slowed down a bit. They have dropped by almost 0.2 goals per game. The largest single reason for this decline is Martin St Louis slowing down. Last season he was the second highest scorer in the NHL with 99 points. This year he has been limited to 32 games and is slightly below point per game pace with 30 points.
The biggest single reason for Tampa Bay’s decline so far this season is poor goaltending. Roloson has been the worst goalie in the league so far this year. He was an above average starting goalie last year. That is a significant drop. At age 42 it is unlikely that he is going to bounce back, although it is quite possible he can improve his game. Tampa Bay is currently six points out of a playoff spot and the season is not yet half over, so all is not lost. Tampa must have better goaltending to make up that difference. Without a good trade made soon, I do not think that is likely to happen.
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