Rookie netminders need an Ironhead

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

Ray Emery has been wearing a hat around the Senators dressing room, perched backward on his dome, with the word "Ironhead" in a nice script right over his eyebrows.

(Ironhead Athletic is a specialist in "customized outerwear.")

Ironhead pretty much sums up what a goalie needs to have at this time of year, especially a rookie, of which many have sprung up like dandelions around a park this spring.

There's not much to choose from stylistically from the eight goaltenders who survived the first round. They're all stopping the puck, one way or the other, or they wouldn't be still around.

At this point, it's likely what's between the ears that's going to be the difference from here on in.

"I think starting now and going forward in the playoffs, the tougher it gets, I think experience is something that gets a little bit more important," Devils goaltender Martin Brodeur said yesterday.

ROOKIE RENDEZ-VOUS

That said, there is going to be at least one rookie goaltender making it to the Eastern Conference final this year.

One of Emery, 23, and Buffalo's Ryan Miller, 25, are going to make it against either Brodeur or Carolina rookie Cam Ward, 22.

Emery's not quite sure the kids are at a total disadvantage moving forward from here.

Sometimes not knowing what to expect is as good or maybe even better than having been there.

"If you've been there before, you're not going to get worked up, you're not going to get shaky as some guys do when they're nervous," he said. "But young guys get that adrenaline going, that's why you see some of those performances from young guys. You don't realize how important it is, you're just kind of happy to be there and to be playing. I think there's advantages to both."

Brodeur stands at the top of the pile right now both on the strength of his experience and his numbers from the first round (1.00 GAA and a .965 save percentage).

Miller is third statistically and Emery is in the middle of the pack.

At this point, early in the post-season proceedings, goaltending might have cost a team a series, but it's hard to say a goaltender has won one, though the best case can probably be made for Ward.

The Emery-Miller matchup is interesting because they are each now going to face the highest-scoring opponent left in the post-season.

The Sabres are the highest-scoring team in the post-season so far with 27 goals in six games while the Senators are next with 23 goals in five games.

Both Miller and Emery are now likely going to face a much greater number of quality shots this time around.

"They have a pretty balanced attack and a lot of guys known for their creativity," said Miller. "You see a lot of different elements from their forwards and their 'D' tend to get open for some good shots and join the play. They have a lot of different ways to come at you, but I think we do, too.

"We were able to learn a lot about ourselves as a team and learn how to play in the playoffs. We're up against a really strong team in Ottawa, but we feel like we're capable of playing against anyone right now with our game plan and the way we play hockey."

"They're both very athletic, both good-sized guys. They don't give up bad goals very often," Senators coach Bryan Murray said of Miller and Emery. "I think (Miller) catches the puck real well, which tells me he's a pretty good athlete. It's obvious they've got great confidence in him right now.

"But people do score goals on him. We had a number of clips to show our players (yesterday) and there are some things we'll try to do on him."

IN THE PAINT?

Is he worried about the Sabres doing something to get Emery rattled, like crowding the blue paint?

"I don't think you're going to rattle Ray Emery very much. Sure, we all do things to try and get an advantage, but Ray Emery showed me over the latter part of the year and in the first round that he just stops the puck and plays. He's under control totally at this point in time."

In other words, he's got the Ironhead going.


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