Monday, March 24, 2008

Ray Emery's Chance

Martin Gerber made his 11th straight start this evening in a huge game against conference and national rivals the Montreal Canadiens. He has a 2.60 GAA over that span with a .915 save percentage. Tonight's start, however, did not go as planned. Gerber allowed 3 goals on 14 shots and was pulled after the 1st period. The much maligned back-up, Ray Emery, has taken to the ice for the first time in nearly a month.

Emery, who led the team to the Stanley Cup finals last year, has had the kind of year, both personally and professionally, that makes PR management firms smile. He's struggled on the ice, dropped the gloves with a teammate, been late to practice numerous times prompting his coach to throw him out, had altercations with the police and been singled out for his questionable work ethic. It's the kind of year that can taint a career.

Emery, after returning from wrist surgery, split starts with Gerber which seemed to be a point of contention for him. In many ways, he had a good amount of responsibility in the firing of John Paddock, the Senators coach, only a month ago. Bryan Murray, the Senators GM, took over as head coach, a role that is pretty familiar to him after being behind the bench throughout the playoffs last year. Since Murray has taken over Gerber has been the starter as the team tries desperately to develop some consistency and find a way out of a slump that has less to do with goaltending and more to do with the team as a whole..

Now Ray Emery has found himself unexpectedly back on the ice in a clutch game that his team truly needs. Thus far, he's made 5 saves and couple of critical stops and the Senators have been able to cut the lead to two. My prediction is that this won't be the last time we see Ray Emery this season and we won't go through the playoffs without him in the net. Whether he will yank the starting reins away from Gerber, I'm not sure, but I think he could be the surprise player of the post-season. The biggest obstacle he'll need to overcome is the damage he's caused to his teammates' faith in him. A team has to believe in their goaltender, otherwise that doubt manages to spread into all aspects of the game. If Ray Emery can lead the Senators to victory tonight it may just be the first step to doing exactly that.


Ultimately, it wasn't mean to be for Emery or the struggling Senators. After Ottawa cut the lead to 2 midway through the second period, the Canadiens roared back scoring four goals in less than 8 minutes. The Senators seemed to wake up in the third and were able to score four goals but fell 7-5. Emery was good early on, but it wasn't enough as the Senators are clearly not a playoff hockey caliber team right now. Martin Gerber will search for retribution as he makes his 12th straight start tonight against the high-flying Buffalo Sabres.

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