Gerber's now No. 1 in fans' hearts

ERIN NICKS

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

During the Senators' lengthy stretch of woe this year, there was one thought perpetually conveyed to me, be it by text message, e-mail or carrier pigeon:

"Why does Martin Gerber make it so hard for us to pull for him?"

Within this negative sentiment are a number of discussion topics -- some might latch onto goaltending issues during the season's midpoint, or how Gerber's previous slide occurred in the first place.

But what about the most obvious point, which ironically also happens to be a positive one?

Sens fans have wanted to root for Gerber for some time. And as the franchise closes in on their 11th straight post-season appearance, it looks like they may get their wish.

Gerber may be the most unassuming backstopper to walk through the Sens' revolving door in recent history. We've seen the nice guys (Ron Tugnutt, Patrick Lalime), the eccentrics (Dominik Hasek) and the ones who curse on live TV (Tom Barrasso). It's difficult to place No. 29 in any of these categories because we hear so little about him. His interviews are scarce, and you get the impression he prefers to avoid the spotlight, but not in a reclusive or impolite manner.

Here's what we do know: Gerber is a great teammate, he doesn't rock the boat and he'll put forth an effort during practice no matter what.

Sounds like the obvious attributes any goalie should have, right? That hasn't been the case in Ottawa this season, especially when you recall all the drama the team has faced in net, both on and off the ice.

MAJOR DISTURBANCE

Thanks to multiple incidents that saw Ray Emery's name being brought up for all the wrong reasons, the younger 'tender of the two was deemed to be a major disturbance. Even casual reference towards Emery these days seems to carry a negative connotation. And despite the fact both goalies played poorly during the season's difficult stretches, Gerber emerged with less tarnish to his image because he remained quiet and continued to work hard.

When a talented athlete is regularly seen in a bad light for whatever reason (Randy Moss, Terrell Owens, Chris Pronger, etc.), their fans will look the other way nearly every time. Nothing else matters to them when said player proves how valuable he is by making the big catch or scoring the clutch goal. This was the trump card that Emery didn't possess. Improving his play wouldn't have stopped the talk, but it could have kept the supporters in his corner.

During the darkest days, fans maintained the memory of Gerber's early-season success in the back of their minds. Everyone was so tired of the drama -- the belief was that if the 33-year-old could regain his form, the goaltender's stability would eventually spread to the rest of the team.

Fans wanted to see him have another shot at the No. 1 position. They needed someone to take the ball and run with it (or rather, take a puck and stop it). Gerber's recent confident play shows how willing he is to be up for the challenge. Fans ultimately want to root for the guy who's best for the team in all aspects. Right now, Martin Gerber more than fits the bill.


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