If Dominik Hasek does, in fact, become the key ingredient that finally swings the Battle of Ontario in Ottawa's favour, the Maple Leafs have only themselves to blame.
And Pat Quinn knows it.
When Joe Nieuwendyk beat Patrick Lalime with a pair of softies in Game 7 of the Leafs' first-round series against the Ottawa Senators 10 weeks ago, it did more than just punt the boys from Bytown out of the playoffs.
In the end, it booted Lalime right out of the Eastern Conference -- he was traded yesterday to the St. Louis Blues for a conditional fourth-round draft pick in 2005 -- paving the way for Hasek to become a Senator as early as Thursday.
League sources say the Sens have all but worked out a deal with Hasek, and are expected to announce his signing July 1 -- the day the 39-year-old goalie becomes an unrestricted free agent and can walk away from the Detroit Red Wings.
Even Quinn admitted the Leafs' 3-0 post-season series record against Lalime probably led to the trade, a move that certainly sets the stage for Hasek's arrival.
"I think that's exactly what happened," the Leafs coach said during the final day of the 2004 draft at the RBC Center in Raleigh, N.C.
"I think he was made a bit of a scapegoat. He played some good games against us in the past, but I do not think he had a good Game 7.
"Clearly, they are in the process of making changes. I thought they already were one of the best teams last year, and now I think you have to assume Hasek will be in there.
"John (Senators general manager Muckler) had Hasek while he was the GM in Buffalo, so he certainly knows him -- presuming Hasek ends up in Ottawa."
Lalime probably is glad to see the last of the Battle of Ontario.
"I know that after what happened last year in the playoffs, especially in Game 7 (against the Leafs), it was going to be tough for me to go back (to Ottawa)," said Lalime, who is expected to receive a $2.85-million US qualifying offer from the Blues this week.
"The good thing is I'm going to a great organization and a great team. I'm going to get a chance to get a fresh start."
While Muckler's trading away of Lalime and Radek Bonk easily were the biggest moves in an otherwise quiet draft weekend, the Leafs have their own goaltending issues to address in the coming days.
General manager John Ferguson's primary focus is on Ed Belfour, who also is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent in three days. The Leafs do have an offer on the table for the veteran goalie, but the length of the contract remains an issue.