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Sabres Central

Hasek bounces back to shutout Sens
By Rick Anderson
December 30, 2000

Dominik Hasek makes a key save on Sens' D'man Wade Redden in the first period. Hasek would go on and make 34 saves in the game, posting his 4th shutout of the season.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Lindy Ruff stood up for Dominik Hasek when a lot of the media and fans alike were saying that the Dominator was washed up. Ruff proclaimed that Hasek would be his starter for the Sabres portentous game against the Ottawa Senators on Friday. Hasek went out an proved Ruff made the right decision as he shutout the Senators and the Sabres won 2-0.

Hasek stopped 34 Senator shots on his way to his fourth shutout of the season and looked much better than he had the previous game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. His heroics in goal also helped deliver the Northeast leading Senators their third straight loss.

Ruff not only made the right choice is picking Hasek two days earlier as his starting goalie, but he was determined to get the blueliners in front of his goalie back on the same page again. The defense had a meltdown against the Penguins when they allowed the high-flying Pens to score 4 straight goals after Buffalo had taken a 3-1 lead in that game on Tuesday. Ruff read his team the riot act after that game and the proceeded to drill it in their heads with two straight days of hard practices. His determination paid off with a well-disciplined defensive game against the Sens.

Sabres' D puts clamps on Sens attack

When the Sabres and Senators get together, you can rest assured that it will be a tight-checking defensive struggle. That's exactly what the 18,690 fans saw in HSBC Arena Friday night as the Sabres got their defensive priorities straightened out and clamped down on the Sens, especially in the first period when they allowed only 2 shots on Hasek.

The Sens and Sabres are always involved in 0-0, 1-0 and 2-1 games. In the past 6 games between Buffalo and Ottawa, there have been 4 shutouts. This one was no different except for the fact that neither team got a shot on net until the 8:16 mark of the first period. And that shot was a strange one at that.

Karel Rachunek attempted to get the puck out of the Senators zone by gloving the puck over the red line, but Vaclav Varada stole the puck and raced down the left side. He took a shot from the left faceoff circle that turned into a knuckle ball, beating Senators goalie Patrick Lalime as it clanked off the crossbar and into the net. After that knuckle ball pitch, Varada should try out for the Buffalo Bisons as a pitcher in the offseason.

"I just picked it up," said Varada. "I knew I had no one to pass to so I just took a shot and it went in. I like to get those garbage goals. It (P's) the other teams off. I thought the one goal was going to be enough."

First shot on goal by either team and Buffalo now was suddenly in front 1-0. The Sabres nursed that lead the rest of the period, taking only 7 more shots on Lalime, compared to the Sens 2 on Hasek.

Dominik reclaims his zone

It had been a frustrating week for Hasek. He had been pulled early in the second period on Tuesday against Pittsburgh after allowing 3 goals on only 16 shots. Hasek was determined to get his game back on track. It had been derailed by Jagr and Company, and it just had not gone into high gear all year. When his teammates had practiced earlier Friday in preparation for the Senators, Hasek decided to practice an extra half hour after his teammates had finished. He chose just one shooter to practice against, the Sabres No. 1 marksman for the past three years, Miro Satan. Satan took shot after shot, breakaway after breakaway on Hasek.

Hasek spotted Satan a 6-0 lead in the penalty shot competition. Then the Dominator bore down and showed Satan what Hell on Ice really was about - facing the old Dominator of years past. Hasek came from behind and stopped the next 10 of 13 penalty shots and won the competition 10-9.

"I was just trying to do something different," said Hasek about his one-on-one competition with Satan. "It was a great competition for me and for him."

Hasek, who had been pulled from two of his last five games, may also have helped Satan against the Sens, as the Sabres Devilman netted Buffalo's second goal.

"Driving in your car, when you go to sleep, you can't help but think about it," Hasek said about his below par play thus far this season. "Confidence is important and it's something that's not at its highest right now, but my job is to get myself out of this hole. I can say whatever I want though. It really doesn't matter. I just have to do it on the ice."

The extra practice seemed to have done a world of good for Hasek, who turned in a workmanlike performance against the Senators in recording his fourth shutout of the season.

Senators defenseman Wade Redden takes down Vaclav Varada when he tries to intercept a pass intended for Redden. Varada would go on and score the winning goal in the first period.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Although Hasek only had to face 2 shots in the first period, the Senators blistered 20 pucks at the Sabres goalie in the second period. Hasek did not make his usual acrobatic saves except when he really had to. Instead, he played his position well and forced the Senator shooters to hit him directly with all their shots. Maybe Hasek has finally found a style that he can play in his latter years in the NHL. All the splits, dives, snowangels have taken their toll on the soon-to-be 36 year old body of Hasek. After being plagued with a nasty groin tear for almost two seasons and other nagging injuries, Hasek may be forced to use a more stationary stance in the crease. In fact, it was Hasek who wrote the book on the unorthodox style of playing goal that other goalies copied. Now he may have to go back to the traditional approach of manning the pipes.

The pipes were part of Hasek's equipment Friday against the Sens. While the Senators were applying the pressure on Hasek in the second period, they clanked the puck off the posts twice. Both John Emmons and Marian Hossa hit metal as they beat Hasek, but the Dominator's exterior equipment did the job. Once again, it was proper positioning that helped Hasek repel all the Senators could throw at him. With 3 minutes remaining in the second stanza, Chris Phillips took a long shot that trickled through Hasek's pads. The Sabres goalie looked behind him to see if it had gone in the net but still didn't see it, so he quickly fell on his seat and sat on the puck to stop it from crossing the line.

"We had several opportunities," Senators coach Jacques Martin said. "We hit a couple of goal posts in the second period that could have made the difference in the game. If those go in it's a different hockey game."

Hasek seemed to have the old air of confidence about him after the game.

"In the second period I made a couple good saves and there weren't too many rebounds," commented Hasek. "And all of a sudden I got very confident. I could see all the shots, even the 20 shots in the second period. Sometimes before I didn't see these shots, and it's hard to stop the puck or not give up a rebound if you don't see the puck. Ninety nine percent of the shots I could see. There were not any rebounds so my teammates helped me a lot."

The man who scored the Sabres winning goal, complimented his goalie.

"Dom played a great game," Varada asserted, "but he had luck on his side also."

Satan's mark

The score remained 1-0 until 5 minutes in the third period when Satan may have used something he picked up in his earlier penalty shot competition with Hasek. After J.P. Dumont's pass to Satan was blocked by Shawn McEachern, McEachern tried to pass the puck up to one of his teammates. Satan knocked the puck down, stopped, looked at Lalime and then flipped a wrist shot top shelf over the Lalime's outstretched glove for the final goal of the game.

Maybe just maybe the extra practice also helped Satan. With both Hasek and Satan picking up their games after their 30 minute showdown, it may become the norm for those two to lock horns after practices from now on.

Sabres Talk

The Senators, who are now on a five-game winless skid, knew that they played into Hasek's hands.

"Against a goalie like Hasek you have to get a little more traffic in front of him," said Hossa.

"Hasek was great," praised Sens rookie Marty Havlat. "After that first period, we were a better team. We had lots of scoring chances, but he played really well."

"Both their goals were bad mistakes," said Sens coach Jacques Martin, "and it's kind of tough when you give them gifts. Other than that we played well. We hit a couple of posts in the second. If they go in, it's a different hockey game."

Here's an aerial view of the Dominator in action.Dominik Hasek shows his famous form as he sprawls in making a great stop on Shawn McEachern as Sabres forward Doug Gilmour comes in to help out his goalie.
[REUTERS Photo/Nick Jones]

Hasek was the hot topic after the game. He has had an up and down season, but getting this shutout against the first place Sens may be just the charge that Hasek needs to kick his game in high gear for the rest of the season.

"What can I say after a game like that," Hasek said to the mob of reporters. "I didn't get too much work in the first period but after that I was busy. The post helped me twice. In the second period, I made a couple of good saves and didn't give up many rebounds. I was very confident."

"It was a special game for me because I was pulled out from the last game," Hasek continued. "However, I can not say that I was ready more than for the last game. When I feel good, I haven't played good. I just wanted to try something different (the practice with Satan). It's my job to get myself out of the hole."

Ruff looked like a genius for sticking with his top goalie. When everyone was proclaiming Hasek to be done like dinner, Ruff knew that he would have to play is Ace card until he finally broke out of his funk.

"In the past when he's criticized for an effort he always comes up with a big game," analyzed Ruff. "You could see the focus. He looked sharp right from the start. Dom and I have sat down a couple of times. We talked over at the Pepsi Center (after Tuesday's loss to the Pens), we talked again this morning. He wants to get that form back.

Ruff knows that if the Sabres are going to give the Stanley Cup a serious shot this year, he'll have to ride on Hasek's shoulders to get there. The problem was to get Hasek near his 5-Vezina Trophy form.

"Obviously, some of it I think is when you've had that many goals scored against you, it's a little bit lack of confidence," Ruff noted. "And sometimes all you need is to get two, three (solid) games in a row to get you going."

Even though Hasek played one of his best games of the season Friday, Martin Biron may get the nod in Saturday night's game against the Islanders.

"We're just going to evaluate that on a game-to-game basis," said Ruff. "Marty's on the schedule to play some games already and I'm not going to change that schedule. If Marty got extremely hot, I think it would be crazy not to play him."

Ruff turned his attention to the penalty killing unit that was tested in the third period.

"One thing that was strong for us was our penalty killing," said Ruff. "In the third period we didn't give up a lot of great chances. We didn't give up the odd-number situations. We made some mistakes in our end, but some of those you have to give Ottawa credit for. We didn't beat ourselves, and that was the key to the game."

With the win, the Sabres suddenly find themselves only 2 points behind the front-running Senators and have two games in hand on Ottawa.

"I think what was lost in the whole thing is that we were four points back and Ottawa had been struggling and Toronto has been struggling," Ruff said. "We're two points back with a game in hand (on Ottawa) and a couple games in hand on Toronto. (Actually, the Sabres have two games in hand on Ottawa, but have played the same number of games as the Leafs) We're tied for the conference lead in wins, and we've been without some key personnel."

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