Hasek standing on his head

BRUCE GARRIOCH -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 12:36 PM ET

Dave Lewis has seen Dominik Hasek at his championship best.

And, as he watched the Senators goaltender on Thursday night, the former Red Wings coach saw a replica of the guy who backstopped Detroit to a Stanley Cup in 2002.

Lewis, an associate coach with the Wings that season, is convinced a healthy Hasek will give the Senators the same opportunity next spring.

There's no doubting his form, added Lewis, now a Northeast Division scout for the Wings (he was fired as coach last summer when Anaheim's Mike Babcock became available).

"He looks pretty good to me," said Lewis, who was in Boston Thursday scouting the Senators' 5-2 victory over the Bruins. "I'm not surprised (Hasek) has been able to have success because everybody knows he has a tremendous work ethic.

"That's what gives him the edge over everybody else. He worked hard in practice and as a collective group, the players saw the way he was working and that rubbed off on them. That's why he has the ability to play at the top of his game, much like guys like Chris Chelios and Steve Yzerman ... he knows what he wants and he looks hungry."

BACKUP TONIGHT

Hasek won't start tonight against the Buffalo Sabres. Instead, backup Ray Emery will be in net.

But there's no doubt Hasek's play has been a key to the Senators' fast start this season.

With a salary of $1.52 million US, Hasek was termed one of the league's best bargains in a Forbes magazine article. The 40-year-old has a 1.89 goals-against average and .937 save-percentage.

"I'm sure he had a lot of questions surrounding him because he had been out of hockey for a while, but I think he's able to answer those," said Lewis. "(Hasek) has stepped up and done the job for this team.

"I'm sure he had a long talk with the coaching staff and the organization about how he'd like to be used, when he'd like to play. I'm sure they felt like he was what they needed. They're a team that made a lot of changes, but obviously this is the biggest one they've made."

TOO DEPENDENT

Senators coach Bryan Murray couldn't be happier with Hasek's performance. But he felt the rest of the team leaned on its goaltender too much in the first period of Thursday's win over the Bruins, when Ottawa was outshot 17-5.

"I think sometimes we might rely on Dominik Hasek too much and we feel so comfortable that he's there that we're not afraid of giving up scoring chances." said Murray. "We can't have periods like the one we did against the Bruins when we give up 17 shots.

"I just think Dominik has been excellent. Even in practice, he's stopping everything and he's been really solid for us. The only way they can beat him in practice is when we have a 5-0 lead and there's nobody there to protect him."

There was controversy in Detroit when Hasek came back in the 2003-04 season because he only played 14 games before packing it in midway through the year to have his groin surgically repaired. So far, at least, the questions about the injury have disappeared.

"From everybody I've spoken with and everything I've read, (Hasek) changed his training program with what he did in the off-season and what he did off ice and it appears to have really helped him," said Lewis. "I'm not sure he had prepared properly (during the off season) before that year in Detroit and he learned a lesson from it."

Lewis believes Hasek will be an even bigger factor in the playoffs.

"The one thing about Dominik Hasek is he can get in the heads of the shooters," said Lewis. "Look at that first shootout against the Leafs, (Eric) Lindros missed the net and (Jason) Allison didn't even get a shot off.

"That's because Hasek can get into a guy's head and make them really question what they're doing."

bruce.garrioch@ott.sunpub.com


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