'Battle' put into perspective

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 10:57 AM ET

It seems pretty frivolous to be writing about hockey today as our country deals with the heart-crushing news from Afghanistan of the deaths of four Canadian soldiers.

A lot of the talk during the NHL playoffs is about battles and sacrifice and putting the good of the group ahead of the good of the individual.

Nobody personified those ideals more than the four men who gave their lives in the service of our country yesterday.

So, as we anticipate tonight's meeting between the Senators and the Tampa Bay Lightning and the other games today, by all means, get excited.

But save a thought for the families in Richmond Hill and Petawawa, in Victoria, in Toronto and Edmonton and Wainright, Alta.

Have a prayer for Cpl. Matthew Dinning, Bombardier Myles Mansell, Lieut. William Turner and Cpl. Randy Payne.

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Senators coach Bryan Murray didn't know where Dominik Hasek was yesterday.

''I think he was in the workout room,'' said Murray.

It says so much about the rapid maturation of rookie goaltender Ray Emery that the whereabouts of The Dominator one game into the playoffs would be an afterthought for his coach.

Emery has come a long way in a short time.

As a hockey lifer, Senators goaltending coach and pro scout Ron Low is adapt at evaluating young goaltenders.

No exception when it came to breaking down Emery.

The report?

''I can't say I thought Rayzer looked real good as a blond,'' said Low.

He laughed when he said it yesterday as Emery's platinum dye job, as well as his short whirl with his Mike Tyson mask, were brought up again as Emery's rapid maturation as an NHL goaltender became the topic du jour.

Emery was rock solid in his first NHL playoff game Friday night.

The trick now, of course, is doing it again tonight in Game 2.

Emery made 35 saves in his playoff debut. Consistency now becomes the next test, just as it did for the 23-year-old during the regular season.

He passed that test, too, after being thrown into the starter's job when Hasek got hurt at the Olympics.

The month of March, in which he earned a record 12 wins, is where Emery, freed of the pressure of being relegated to the bench by a bad game, grew his game, said Low.

''I think he's grown up a tremendous amount this year,'' said Low.

''There were a couple of incidents, well-documented, he found his way through that and came out of it at the end a lot smarter. That's what guys do. (Forward) Brian McGrattan came in with a ... Mohawk and I don't think that went over that good, neither. That's young guys.

''But in the end it's more about the team. You grow with it and you learn. Ray is a real good person, a good kid. Some of the things that happen in your life ... you're a kid and you grow out of it. To me, he's done a lot of things to put the focus back on him as a goaltender, which is where you really want it.''

Emery is off to a good start, but it's just one game.

One game, but something to build on.

''I think teams rally around goaltenders that got hot for them,'' said Low. ''All of a sudden, there's a little confidence built up within the team itself and that carries teams a long way, too.''

Some of the Senators figure they own Emery one after Friday night.

EARNED SAVE

''He was there to save us. We've got to be better for him (tonight),'' said Senators defenceman Wade Redden.

Murray isn't worrying about where Hasek is now.

He doesn't have to worry about Emery, either, now that he has taken big steps to find himself as a goaltender.

''Now that he's playing game after game since the Olympic break, he's very comfortable with himself. The players are very comfortable with him. He's become a better goaltender with experience and without a doubt the focus of being 'the guy,' '' said Murray.

''If you want attention in this community, get it with your ability to play and he's done that.''

CHRIS.STEVENSON@OTT.SUNPUB.COM


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