Defence was a bit tougher than I thought toward the bottom of that list. Guys like Shaw and MacIver are on par with guys like Pitlick, Laukkanen, Kravchuk and so on. I stand by the picks, though, and use their status as original Sens to propel them into the top six.
So we finally reach the goalies. First, I'll go over the parameters one last time for those that didn't start at the beginning of this series. We're putting together a roster of FORMER Sens that played at least 50 games in Ottawa. Current players are exempt, as are guys that didn't dress for enough games in town. For the goalies, I'll also list out all the eligible players so that we can get some discussion going before heading to camp this weekend.
Here are my top two:
1. Ray Emery: (134 games, 71W, 40L, 14OTL, 8SO, 2.71 GAA, .907 SV)
I'm going to be honest with you, I went back and forth on whether or not this guy was the number one. At the end of the day, though, he was strong enough to backstop us into the Finals, further than any other goalie in Ottawa modern day history. His detractors will say that everyone just rode Alfie's coattails but regardless of that opinion, Emery didn't cave. In my opinion, we let this one get away. Ray Emery was one of the cockiest SOBs to dress for us in 15 years and we let it get away. What does it take to be a goalie in a hockey market that has a history of shoddy goaltending, where the media and fans will criticize everything from your practices to your driving to your pre-game posse? It takes a player with incredible swagger and confidence. Instead of just trying to nurture his talent and absorb his arrogance into something creative, we basically cast him as different and a distraction. The team that went to the Finals wasn't nearly as good as the teams that faced Toronto and lost four times, but our goalie made the saves he was expected to make. Mark my words - we will regret the broken relationship we had with Emery. I am fully aware that it is a two-way street and he didn't do nearly enough to keep his job coming back from injury. But our organization didn't help the matter and Murray has gone as far as to say that Paddock let these guys slide into such terrible habits that we still haven't recovered. I hope Pascal has that swagger, too, because Emery has been the only goalie in Ottawa that can handle the heat of the playoffs in Hockey Country.
2. Patrick Lalime (283 games, 146W, 100L, 30T, 30SO, 2.32 GAA, .913 SV)
Here's what is funny about this one. When I started this exercise, I was sure as shat that Tugger would be my guy in the number two spot. In fact, I'm still a bit torn over it. Here's why - on one hand, we have to prepare in case Emery has a meltdown and we need to turn to our backup in the playoffs. I love Tugger as a poised goalie that was with us in those early playoff years. But the more I thought about it, Tugger didn't win a single playoff series with us. Patty-cakes, on the other hand, was an extremely reliable goalie both in the regular season and in the playoffs. Sure, he lost to Toronto a few times, but it is hard to argue with his numbers: 41 playoff games, 21-20, 1.77 GAA, .926 SV. How many goalies have such superior numbers in the post-season as that? Now, I'll be the first to jump on this and say that he padded some stats against the Islanders a few times and couldn't win when it mattered. But even in the Toronto debacles, it was really only that one Joe Nieuwendyk game that stunk (and yes, it was a game seven). Lalime was the victim of backstopping a team that couldn't score for its life in the playoffs. Rarely was he the cause of those failures, but he certainly did take the blame. So the reason that he makes it on this list ahead of Tugger is because if Emery runs a senior citizen off the road and calls him an old bag of bones, we can turn to our longest serving goalie in history and ask him to recreate that magic that led to 3 straight shutouts in the Philly series of 2002. I'll take that chance over Tugger's 0 playoff series wins any day.
You guessed it - Ron Tugnutt. 72-51-25 was his W-L-T line with the Sens, including a 2.32 GAA and .908 save percentage. Tugger was epic in that 1996-97 season when we lost in seven games to the Sabres. Remember that goal that trickled off his glove in Buffalo to clinch the series for the Slugs? Agghhhhhhhhhh! I was upset when he was shipped out with Laukkanen for Tom Barrasso in 2000, though I guess it was inevitable since Tugger hadn't won a playoff series and T-Bar was still shining his two Cup rings with the Penguins. Still, Tugger was the voice of reason for us back then and I never felt like he cost us games.
The only other shout out I'll give is to Damian Rhodes. I don't think he's worth his uniform, but outside of Emery and Lalime, he is the ONLY Sens goalie to win a playoff series. FYI, during our streak of 11 straight seasons in the playoffs, we won a whopping 8 series. 4 to Emery, 3 to Lalime, and 1 to Rhodes.
Okay, let's hear it from the Don Beaupre fans! Or Billington? Gerbage? Seriously, the only challenge here is whether Lalime makes it ahead of Tugger and I think the playoff history justifies Patty. Thoughts?
And one more for the road: