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Oilers are head of the class

Grading the playoff impact of trade-deadline deals

Posted: Wednesday May 3, 2006 1:31PM; Updated: Wednesday May 3, 2006 6:09PM
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Sergei Samsonov took some knocks in Boston, but he's skated them off and filled the net in Edmonton.
Sergei Samsonov took some knocks in Boston, but he's skated them off and filled the net in Edmonton.
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At the time, it seemed like a pretty steep price.

A first-round pick -- possibly in the top 15 -- plus future considerations for a 36-year-old free-agent-to-be goalie who, well, hadn't even proven himself to be a reliable starter in the NHL.

At the time, Dwayne Roloson was a big risk for Oilers GM Kevin Lowe to take. Now, after leading his team to a surprising but well-deserved series victory over the Red Wings, the acquisition of Roloson looks like the best deal made at the trade deadline.

If Lowe had stood pat, if he'd stayed with the three-headed monster of Mike Morrison, Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen, Edmonton wouldn't be preparing for its first visit to the second round of the playoffs since 1998. In fact, it would not have made the postseason at all.

The Oilers simply didn't trust their netminders, and they played with the tentative apprehension of a team that fears that the next shot, no matter how weak, will find its way to the back of the net. Although he struggled with his new team (losing six of his first eight games), Roloson quickly changed the Oilers' attitude. He settled them down in the stretch, allowing Edmonton to sneak into the eighth spot.

While his teammates believed, there were plenty of doubters. Roloson quickly silenced them with his yeomanlike performance against Detroit. He stopped 221 shots in the six games -- you can do the math on that one to see just how much rubber he faced each night -- and offered up a 2.50 goals-against and a save percentage of .929. That's a big time puck-stopping performance.

Of course, it's not just how many you save, but when you save them. And while Roloson came up with a number of critically timed stops, one in particular stands out: Leading 1-0 in Game 6 and completely dominating the flow, the Wings broke in on a two-on-one. A pinpoint cross-ice pass set up Kirk Maltby for an easy tip-in that would have tilted the contest precipitously in Detroit's favor. But reading the play perfectly, Roloson managed to slide to his left and make the save that kept Edmonton in the game. At a time when his team was struggling -- they were outshot 17-2 in the second -- Rollie the goalie was the best Oiler on the ice, and that gave his mates the time and opportunity to get things into gear and steal the game in the third.

The ride may not last much longer for the Oilers. Neither Calgary nor Anaheim will be as soft as the Wings were for much of that series. But even if they get no further, Roloson gave fair value for the price paid for him. Give him an A.

It's impossible to outperform a series-stealing goalie, but Sergei Samsonov came close. After scoring 16 points in 19 regular-season games with the Oil -- some difficult transition, eh? -- the 5-foot-8 Samsonov was an even bigger man against the Wings. He energized Edmonton's offense with six points, none bigger than the seeing-eye pass he fed Ales Hemsky in the dying moments of Game 6 that led to the game-winner.

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