Some days, Tampa Lightning coach Guy Boucher’s psychology background is practically visible.
Yesterday was one of those days.
Down three games to two and facing elimination, Boucher has named Dwayne Roloson as his starting goalie for game six.
Roloson struggled in game four and was replaced by Mike Smith in game five. Smith was very strong in game five, leading some to speculate Smith might get the starting call for game six.
Boucher obviously believes Roloson has what it takes to win game six. But naming Roloson has some other advantages, too.
Like Roloson is now the storyline. No one is talking about anything besides Tampa’s goaltending. That lets the rest of his team focus on preparing for an elimination game since the media is pretty much ignoring the rest of the team now.
If Boucher had stuck with Smith, I’m not sure goaltending would be such strong storyline. Because it would just be a coach sticking with a hot goalie.
By switching back to Roloson, Boucher has swung everyone’s attention over to goaltending, and away from his skaters.
Boucher isn’t only going with Roloson as a form of pressure alleviation.
Roloson has been solid for the vast majority of the playoffs, plus he’s got a lot of experience — he’s 6-0 in playoff elimination games.
Both Smith and Roloson were equally strong choices to start game six. But by switching back to Roloson, Boucher gets an experienced, playoff tested goalie, plus the benefit of drawing the media’s fire off of most of his team.
The risks are substantial, though. How will Roloson respond to so much attention being placed on him? If he happens to give up a quick goal, will he collapse?
And would Boucher have been better off sticking with the hot goalie, rather than the most consistent one?
I suspect the risk will pay off for Boucher and the Lightning.