I'd like to examine the history of NHL goalies in Ottawa. For the purposes of clarity, we'll stick to the modern day incarnation of the team (1992 to the present). In those 15 seasons they have had 21 goalies play at least one game in a Sens jersey. Only nine have a winning record in the regular season. The Sens have made the playoffs for 11 straight seasons, but of the seven goalies that have managed to play in a playoff game, only two have winning records.
The early years of the franchise, sometimes referred to as The Dark Ages, were not kind to goalies. They routinely faced 40 or more shots per game and over the four seasons, spanning 298 games, the team only amassed 51 wins, hardly an ideal situation for any goaltender to find himself in.
During this time, the team had goalies like Don Beaupre (14-48-3), Daniel Berthiaume (2-17-1), Craig Billington (11-47-6) and Peter Sidorkiewicz (8-46-3). The team was a laughingstock, and despite some really bad records, some goalies were not as bad as their stats would indicate, especially Sidorkiewicz. I remember some nights watching him make save after save, some of them quite spectacular, yet still coming away with a loss.
Then along came Jacques Martin, who instituted a defence-first style of play and turned the team into a perennial playoff contender, garnering a great regular season record, yet still coming up quite short in the playoffs. During Martin's tenure as coach, the Sens always played well during the run up to the playoffs, but then never made more than a little splash in the playoffs, inevitably losing to the Maple Leafs in either the first or second round.
The goalies during this era fared much better in the regular season; Damian "Red Light" Rhodes (65-74-30), Jani Hurme (25-14-5) and Patrick Lalime (146-100-30), but bombed miserably when the games counted in the postseason. None of these have a legacy in Ottawa, due mainly to their failure in the playoffs.
In all fairness, I think Lalime is a very good technical goalie, and his stats prove it, but what he is remembered for most of all in the city was his colossal flop in game seven of the 2004 first round against the Leafs, when he let in two very soft goals in the first period that put the team in a hole they were incapable of getting out of.
It's not fair to blame this team's woes only on the goalies, but they have proven that even with a well-organized team defence system, they were unable to give that little extra to make the key saves, or even the easy ones, to ensure that the rest of the team isn't always looking over their shoulders wondering when they will find themselves trailing on the scoreboard.
In recent years, the Sens have made it to round three (2003), round two (2006), and the finals (2007) but still failed to bring home the elusive prize. Most recently, Martin Gerber and Ray Emery, both in their own way good goalies, have played in front of the home crowd and failed to instill any confidence that they could solve this team's problems.
There has never been a Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy, Nikolai Khabibulin, or Cam Ward to step up and carry the bulk of the work to get that cup. I doubt there ever will be in Ottawa, or maybe at least not in my lifetime. Maybe I'm just being a fatalist, too caught up in the "controversy" to see it without bias, but it sure seems like this season will be no different than any of the others, with the very real possibility that the Sens may not even make a postseason appearance.
Come to think of it, maybe that's what this team needs.
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