True Grit: Dwayne Roloson

BY foxsports • February 5, 2011

We may need to be reminded about a few things that happened back in 1969.

Jacques Plante, a 41-year-old hockey codger for St. Louis, and the first man ever to put on one of them goaltender masks, started up a season in which he'd lasso himself five shutouts. Seeing as he had done much the same thing the year before for ornery Blues boss Scotty Bowman, nobody paid it much mind. Turns out, it'd be nearly four decades before anyone Plante's age ever came close to repeating the feat.

That same year of 1969, our favorite cowboy John Wayne earned himself his only Oscar for Best Actor, playing crusty ol' U.S. Marshal Rooster Cogburn. The movie was "True Grit."

Also in 1969, it just so happens a fellow named Dwayne Roloson was born. Well, he's 41 now. Wearin' one of them goaltender masks, kinda like Plante. He wins shoot 'em ups and gets into fights, much like The Duke.

Rooster Cogburn and "True Grit" are back. And we're not talking Jeff Bridges. Although those two look a whole lot alike. Same rough and tumble snarl. Both dadgum good at what they do. Neither has gone soft.

It is amazing to see that competition and time have withered neither the temper nor the quick-on-the-draw hands of Tampa Bay's netminder. Take Friday night's rodeo before a capacity crowd of 20,216 in the raucous St. Pete Times Forum. Same place the Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup in 2004.

Washington skated as if it were Game 7, pressed although it's only February, trailing the Lightning in the Eastern Conference standings for the first time in three seasons. Roloson had stoned Alexander Ovechkin and his Capitals in each of their two encounters in January. They were coming hard this night.

Too hard.

The Capitals' Matt Hendricks crashed into Rolly, falling across his pads. Up came Rooster and here came the punches. Even a blocker shot to the noggin. Coulda been a match penalty but wasn't. Yet, at the age of � there's that number again, 41 � Roloson for his part, along with Hendrick, were assessed roughing minors.

Gotta say Rolly took the bullet on this one, for the Capitals scored four-on-four to tie and eventually win the game. But there was � literally � a brawling attitude from a man who's laced up goalie gear for Calgary, Buffalo, Minnesota, Edmonton, the New York Islanders, and now Tampa Bay. That's a whole lot of time in the saddle.

In the rich history of the National Hockey League, there have been only three men about the age of Plante to have exceeded Roloson's four shutouts this season. Only one among the league's Original Six.

The pre-War era found Toronto's 40-years-young George Hainsworth earn eight in 1936. Plante, performing at the end of his Hall of Fame career for St. Louis � primarily against the 1967 Expansion Era clubs out West � twice collected five, the last in 1969-70. Not until Dominik Hasek claimed five with Ottawa in 2006, and eight a season later with Detroit, had the NHL experienced so much from one so . . . ah . . . gray, experienced, determined (please offer your more gracious description here).

Roloson, having won eight of 12 with his new team, seeks a fifth shutout Sunday against, by coincidence, the St. Louis Blues. Playing Plante's final club, 41 years after Jacques, and 41 years after Wayne's Cogburn.

There is a law-and-order confidence emanating from the Lightning crease. True Grit backstopping the Bolts. They ride the range hunting goals while Ol' Whiskey guards the corral.

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