Pssst... Roli Starts!

Robin Brownlee
March 20 2008 01:19PM

"And now, led by Dwaythieu Garoloson, your Edmonton Oilers!" That's right fans, until the Oilers emerge from the tunnel tonight to the familiar nasal tones of Mark Lewis and the cheers of a capacity crowd at Rexall Place to face the Vancouver Canucks, you won’t know for sure who's playing goal—Mathieu Garon or Dwayne Roloson (bet on him). Not only is there much anticipation and no small measure of ill-will heading into what's a must-win against the Canucks, there's intrigue as well. Cloak-and-dagger stuff. I'm-not-telling-and-you-can't-make-me stuff. In a move that's a first, as far as I recall, in Craig MacTavish's tenure as coach, he's given no indication of who his starter against the Canucks will be. Garon and Roloson left the ice at the morning skate at the very same time—usually, the starter leaves first. With that bit of juicy misdirection complete, MacTavish wasn't of the mind to elaborate on his choice of stopper—between you and I it'll be Roloson, but let's not tattle on MacT and ruin the fun. Our secret, K? With the Oilers needing to beat the Canucks tonight in regulation time to keep them in hailing distance in the Western Conference playoff race, MacTavish apparently feels Roloson is the man to get the job done, even if he isn't willing to talk about it. Roloson, 38, went six weeks between starts before getting the call in Phoenix last Saturday, beating the Coyotes with 38 saves. He followed that with 48 saves in a 2-1 win over San Jose Sunday and made it three straight by beating the Coyotes 8-4 here to open a four-game homestand. Tonight makes it four in a row. Roloson, by the way, is 0-1 in two appearances against the Canucks this season with a 3.70 goals-against average and a hideous .800 saves percentage. Garon. 29, takes a seat for the fourth straight game after making 17 straight starts, going 11-6 before running out of gas in a 5-1 spanking last Thursday in Denver, where he got the hook in favour of Roloson. Garon's got the better numbers against Vancouver in a season series that's split 3-3 through the first six games—he's 3–2 with a 2.40 GAA and a .908 saves percentage—but Roli will be first out of the tunnel tonight. Keep it under your hat, will you? OF NOTE... Seldom separated since birth, Daniel and Henrik Sedin will start tonight's game on different lines. Look for Daniel with Ryan Kesler and Alex Burrows, while Henrik with Ryan Shannon and Taylor Pyatt... the Canucks are either looking for trouble or expecting it after the teams went at it for 193 penalty minutes in Vancouver Feb. 16, as they'll dress the hard-nosed tandem of Rick Rypien and Nathan McIver, neither of whom played in the last game. SAM SAYS: Oilers win 3-2 in OT SAM'S RECORD: 3-1

THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME Slumps shake up suffering Oiler snipers Tuesday, March 20, 1990 ROBIN BROWNLEE Journal Staff Writer THE EDMONTON JOURNAL Edmonton “It begins innocently enough: the puck glances off a skate in front of an open net and goes wide, a clear-cut chance rattles off the goalpost, a down-and-out goaltender stacks the pads, prays and is answered. Then it happens again. And again. Now the head drops, the hands tighten, the openings close. There is never enough time, a good angle or a clean shot. The net, once four-by-six, looks like a matchbox. Abruptly, there's nothing innocent about the situation. Suddenly, you're Edmonton Oiler Joe Murphy or maybe Craig Simpson, and you're caught in the middle of a teeth-gnashing, confidence-busting, cold-sweat scoring slump...”

Yikes, was that really 18 years ago? Obviously, judging by Darren Dutchyshen's boy-band hair in an accompanying item in today's Cult of Hockey by David Staples, it was. Funny how hair changes (for God's sake, Dutch, look in the mirror), but some things remain the same—as scoring slumps go, has it been any different at times this season for Jarret Stoll? Thanks, David, for rifling the archives and reminding me I'm a fossil and that the names and the rules might change, but the dynamics of the game remain largely the same. That, as I eye-ball smooth skin where my hair used to be, is comforting. —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

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Brownlee's Western Conference Predictions: Blockhead or Genius?

Robin Brownlee
March 18 2008 06:45PM


Making predictions is about the easiest way there is to look like a blockhead.

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Roloson may be back to his winning ways

Robin Brownlee
March 17 2008 05:36PM

Like the Edmonton Oilers, Dwayne Roloson has absolutely no intention of going quietly and heading for the golf course like the whipped guy a lot of fans thought he was. Having lost his job as Craig MacTavish's top puck-stopper long ago and forced to pick pine slivers out of his arse while Mathieu Garon made 17 straight starts, Roloson showed what he's made of last weekend. In to mop up for Garon in a 5-1 loss to Colorado Thursday, Roloson got the nod in Phoenix Saturday and stiffed the Coyotes 5–2 with 38 saves. Roloson followed that up by hauling his 38-year-old carcass out of the rack for a game in San Jose less than 24 hours later and beat the Sharks 2-1 in a shootout with a 48-save performance. Just like that, the Oilers have nine wins in their last 11 games and arrived home just five points out of a playoff spot. Tuesday, they'll kick-off a four-game homestand that, against all odds, means something. "You just try to focus on what you've got to do to try to help the team win," Roloson said this morning. "I got the opportunity to play and I'm just trying to take advantage of it." Roloson's performance, given he had every opportunity to sulk while Garon took the spotlight, was nothing short of magnificent. For the record, Roloson's no media darling. At best, he tolerates the white-strip TV guys and ink-stained newspaper folks. In fact, he's downright surly at times, which is no the way to get slack when your game goes south and a case of Salo-itis seems to have taken grip. But, while Roloson's not the most engaging interview—there was no, "So, who's No. 1 now, Mathieu?" gold to be mined—he's got a chance to backstop one of the unlikeliest happy endings in team history. Roloson, against all reason, is that good right now. "I've seen him at that level, but I haven't seen him above that level," said MacTavish. "The thing about Roli is that when his game gets there, I've seen it stay there for three months. With the games he's played, the game he played (Sunday), he's back at the level we’ve seen him at before and we know where that can lead you." That would be the spring of 2006 when Roloson helped carry the Oilers to the Stanley Cup final before Marc-Andre Bergeron's brain cramp ended his goaltender's Conn Smyth Trophy bid and his team's hopes. Now, don't get goofy. It's 2008, so please, resist the urge to break stuff and puke on your shoes on Whyte Ave. With nine games to go, the Oilers are still a longshot. Still, MacTavish's reference is clear. The last word goes to Garon, who'll now find himself a cheerleader for as long as Roloson stays hot. "We're winning," Garon said. "I'm not here for myself. I'm here for the team. We just won two big games. I know what's going on. I want to be in the playoffs, so if it works that way I have no problem." NO SECRETS I implied yesterday that Garon might be hiding an injury, thus the back-to-back starts for Roloson. While Garon was yanked in Denver after being bowled over by Steve Staios and Milan Hejduk, he told me this morning it was a straight pull by MacTavish—no injury involved. —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5 pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

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Where's Garon?

Robin Brownlee
March 16 2008 09:41PM

Is Mathieu Garon injured? There's no word from the Edmonton Oilers on that, but after making 17 straight starts, Garon was back on the bench for the second straight game as Dwayne Roloson got the call in a 2-1 shootout win over the San Jose Sharks. While Roloson was outrageously good in San Jose, making 48 saves, his back-to-back starts—he beat Phoenix 5-2 with 38 saves Saturday—seem odd, given the circumstances. Garon faced the Colorado Avalanche in Denver Thursday, but was pulled four minutes into the second period with the score 3–0 right after Steve Staios rode forward Milan Hejduk into him. Not after the 3–0 goal, but right after the collision at the top of the crease. The 29-year-old stopper also took some punishment at the United Center March 7 when Matt Greene dumped 250-pound Chicago forward Dustin Byfuglien on top of him. The Oilers couldn't land in San Jose after the Phoenix game because of a curfew at the airport there. Instead, they had to land in San Francisco and bus to San Jose, getting to the hotel at 2 a.m. It's common practice to split back-to-back games between a starter and the back-up. Sitting out your starter, assuming he's healthy, for both games is anything but common—especially when those games are played in less than 24 hours. While Garon may just have some bumps and bruises as opposed to having a specific injury, I suspect there's more to Roloson's back-to-back starts than just "rest" for the starter. As sharp as Roloson looks, Garon may get more rest if he, ahem, needs it. —Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 5pm on Total Sports with Bob Stauffer on Team 1260.

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Penner isn't working hard for the money

Robin Brownlee
March 16 2008 06:49PM

(When Penner scored goals...)

"I'm going to get in the best shape I can coming into camp here and just play hockey.

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