Work in Sports
NORTHEAST DIVISION |
3 Ottawa Senators
Team Page | 2000-2001 Schedule | Roster
Sports Illustrated Ranking: 14
By Eric Duhatschek
He made an immediate impact early in his NHL career then fell off the radar screen because of a bitter, seemingly irreconcilable contract dispute. Now he holds the key to the Senators' short-term success. No, we're not talking about disgruntled center Alexei Yashin (who sat out last year in a pecuniary pout), but goaltender Patrick Lalime. For an Ottawa team that boasts spectacular depth at forward and defense, the season will hinge on how well Lalime adjusts to being a No. 1 netminder.
Now 26, Lalime burst onto the scene with the Penguins in 1996-97 and holds the record for longest undefeated streak by a goaltender from the start of his NHL career (16 games). Unable to come to terms on a new contract with Pittsburgh in '97-98, Lalime spent two seasons in the minors before resurfacing as Ottawa's backup goalie last year. When the Senators declined to offer starter Tom Barrasso a new contract, the top job fell to Lalime. "This is something I've been looking forward to, the chance to be Number 1," says Lalime, who was 19-14-3 with a 2.33 goals-against average last season.
Lalime may never be a Vezina Trophy candidate, but in Ottawa he may not need to be. Since coach Jacques Martin places such a heavy emphasis on team defense, merely good goaltending may be enough. Wade Redden is an emerging star on the blue line, but the strength of the team is its lightning-quick forwards. The Senators actually scored more goals last season without Yashin in the lineup than they did in '98-99 with him, thanks to breakout years by Radek Bonk (60 points) and Marian Hossa (56). If Yashin, who decided to fulfill the final season of his five-year contract, can play anywhere near the level he did two years ago, this offense will be fine.
Yashin knows that his tattered reputation needs repair. The surest way to get out of Ottawa, as he still wishes, is to reestablish his credentials as a top player and get other teams interested in trading for him. To do that, Yashin needs to prove that he can be a team player. "To have a good roster is not always 100 percent of success," he says. "If you work hard, you get results."
If Yashin follows his own advice, Ottawa will be a playoff contender. To get to the next level, however, the Senators will need their other comeback kid, Lalime, to be their saving grace.
Issue date: October 16, 2000
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