The Lightning's tough goalie decision 

May, 23, 2011

Consider the decision Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher faced Monday morning: Do you give the Game 5 start to Dwayne Roloson -- the goaltender the Lightning's management tabbed as the difference-maker after acquiring him in a trade? Or do you go with Mike Smith -- the Bolts' starter in the fall and the goalie with the hot hand after Tampa's Game 4 rally?

It wouldn't have been an easy question for a veteran NHL coach who had worked several seasons with both goalies and knew their personalities inside out. It has to be even tougher for Boucher, who never played in the NHL, nor coached in it -- even as an assistant -- before this season. And with a background short on experience, it's even harder to consider all of the variables that go into making a goalie change in the playoffs.

When you think of postseason goaltending in recent times, you think of one guy carrying the freight the whole way. You think of names like Brodeur, Roy and Fleury. You think of stability. And because of that stability there has come to be a stigma attached to a goaltending change -- that it heralds some sort of desperation.

Gare Joyce is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.