With the team in dire straits and in desperate need for a win to snap an eight-game slump, the balance between goaltenders Dwayne Roloson and Rick DiPietro has now shifted in Roloson’s favor.
Roloson, who has outplayed DiPietro throughout the first 15 games this season, was awarded his fourth consecutive start last night against San Jose.
“I just think right now with Roli playing the way he has, for me, it’s a no-brainer,” coach Scott Gordon said before the game. “You have to take advantage of the goaltender who is playing really well. If Ricky had some better results in his last few starts than maybe we wouldn’t be talking about that.”
Although Roloson, 41, entered last night’s contest with a 2-6-0 record, he boasts an impressive 2.26 goals against average in eight games played this season. By comparison, DiPietro has a troubling 4.21 GAA, although he has been saddled with some of the team’s worst performances—a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia and 7-2 rout from Carolina— in front of him.
“Unfortunately, we haven’t given him the best support when he’s in the net,” Gordon said. “There are goals he’d want to have back but we’ve played our worst two games whiles he’s been in net. So in fairness to him, it certainly hasn’t been an easy task the way we’ve been playing in front of him.”
And although the Islanders began the season walking a delicate line between both goaltenders--especially given DiPietro’s need to shake off the cobwebs while coming back from a knee injury last season—times have clearly changed.
The team has lost eight straight games in regulation for the first time in over a decade. The last time the Islanders failed to gain at least a point in eight consecutive games came during a ten-game tailspin from Decenmber 22, 1997 to January 10, 1998.
“He’s made key saves. It's tough to get a win when you’re not scoring goals and the last two games he’s only given up three goals,” Gordon said about Roloson. “He’s played well all year long. He hasn’t had a bad game all year, knock on wood. At this point right now he’s been so solid there’s no reason not to play him.”
When asked how DiPietro has handled the change in playing time, Gordon alluded to some natural disappointment.
“Every goaltender wants to play all the time,” Gordon said. “It’s certainly not an easy thing, especially with him coming off his injury and wanting to play.”
DiPietro last played November 3 against Carolina, arguably the team’s worst game of the year. And although DiPietro gave up a few questionable goals in that blowout loss, he could hardly shoulder all the blame.
Regardless, the Islanders’ top priority now is clear: get a win. And entering last night’s game ranking 28th in the league in goals per game (2.33; 35 total) they need all the help they can get.