Murray sends Hasek off ice

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:39 AM ET

The moment for which this team has been aimed for 82 games, for every day since it lost Game 7 to the Toronto Maple Leafs two years ago, loomed a little more than 48 hours away.

When he first came here, this was the moment for which goaltender Dominik Hasek was supposed to live.

The playoffs.

It's why he was signed by GM John Muckler, why he came out of retirement, why Senators fans had such high hopes for this season.

But as his sometime teammates moved over the ice at Scotiabank Place yesterday in preparation for tomorrow night's Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, where was still-injured The Dominator?

He was in the dressing room, leaving his little-used equipment in a pile in front of his stall, sent off the ice by Senators coach Bryan Murray.

At the moment when they expected to need him most, at the time when he was supposed to be a looming, guiding, confidence-instilling presence for a young team, he never seemed so far away as he did yesterday, sent off the ice, put out of sight, when the real work began.

"He skated early, he stayed for (practice) for a little bit and I told him I preferred if we just had the two goaltenders out there for the core of the practice," said Murray, "so after he had a few shots, he left the ice."

When pressed, Murray said not to read too much into the situation. This was not a gesture borne out of frustration with Hasek's lingering injury problem, just one of pragmatism.

There is no time left now for leisurely tours of the ice.

This is not the Rideau Canal.

There is no time left for waving gingerly at pucks. If they wanted one, the Senators could get a shooter-tutor at Canadian Tire.

If you cannot do the job, get out of the way for those who will try.

"I just wanted to have a practice where both goaltenders that have a chance to start the series would be getting more of the shots," said Murray. (Hasek's situation) is not a distraction. I just felt that's the way to go and that's what we'll try and do until we're ready to have him come back and practise full with us."

So it will be rookie Ray Emery in goal tomorrow night and having a backstop with no playoff experience puts the Senators in the majority this post-season.

The Lightning's John Grahame is looking for his first playoff win, too.

For Tampa's other goaltender, Sean Burke, nine of his 12 playoff wins came 18 years ago.

There's the possibility seven of the eight teams in the East could be starting goaltenders in search of their first playoff wins. Those potential starters have a combined four playoff games of experience (if Robert Esche plays in Philly, the number jumps to 23.)

Martin Brodeur of the Devils has played 144 playoff games and won 84 of them.

BRODEUR REFLECTS

As far as starting an inexperienced goaltender, Brodeur, the gold and silver standard of NHL goalies, looked back on his first playoff experience and remembered not having a clue.

Brodeur was a 21-year-old rookie in the spring of 1994 when he took the Devils to the Eastern Conference final, where they lost to the Rangers, the eventual Cup champs, in overtime of the seventh game.

Brodeur's first victims that year?

Dominik Hasek and the Sabres.

"The beauty of those teams (in the East) is they have guys who don't know what it takes to win," said Brodeur the other day in Montreal. "I don't say that in a bad way. They just don't know what to expect. I had no clue what to expect. I thought I was still in junior hockey. The next thing you know, you close out one series and you move on. When you don't have the reputation, people expecting you do to it all the time, it makes it easier.

"When you get older, you understand how hard it is to win. Some of them will play awesome. I'm the only one who's been around for a long time if Dom doesn't play. Some of the young guys are going to come out. I don't see that as a big problem for these teams because they are going to live that dream.

"Somebody is going to get on a roll. When you're young, it's easy to do. Experience kicks in later on. Early on, it's anybody's ball game."

Added Murray: "I think experience is a wonderful thing to have. It certainly gives you a little better maybe feeling going into a game, but I think when you drop the puck and play, you start from scratch. There's a history of rookies doing well in the playoffs."

At least one of them is going to do very well this year.

Why not Emery?


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