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Hasek proving he can still dominate

Hasek proving he can still dominate

Stanley Cup Notebook: Hasek proving he can still dominate
May 8th, 2007

(Sports Network) - Dominik Hasek's age was supposed to make him a liability in Detroit's postseason run this year, but that hardly seems to be the case so far.

The legendary Czech goaltender turned 42 back in January, and critics simply assumed that he would eventually break down as the season continued. However, the Red Wings were careful with Hasek during the regular season, allowing him to start in just 56 games, and that has left the old pro with plenty of gas in the tank.

This year's playoffs have added to Hasek's already tremendous legacy as the greatest European-born goaltender in NHL history, and nothing that happens in the conference finals against Anaheim could change that fact.

Hasek is 8-4 with an amazing 1.51 goals against average and .930 save percentage in this postseason and was a huge factor against San Jose in the conference semifinals.

The two-time Hart and six-time Vezina Trophy winner even posted a shutout in Game 6 of the conference semifinals to allow Detroit to secure its first berth in the West finals since 2002, the same year Hasek led Detroit to a Stanley Cup title to become the first starting goaltender from Europe to win a championship.

The shocking part about Hasek's playoff success this year is the fact that nobody saw it coming. Sure, the "Dominator" seemed to be finished last year, when he missed a huge chunk of the regular season for Ottawa and all of the playoffs due to a nagging groin injury, but Hasek's great start to the 2006-07 campaign should have changed our minds.

Hasek began this season with a 9-3-1 record in his first 13 starts, and won seven straight outings from October 25-November 14. The 1998 Olympic gold medalist finished the year with a 38-11-6 record, .913 save percentage, 2.05 goals against average and eight shutouts, yet many were certain that he would fade in the playoffs.

To be fair, a sizeable portion of the credit for Hasek's success in this year's playoffs should also be given to the Red Wings' exceptional defensive corps. Detroit has been the hardest team to get shots on goal against in the postseason, as it is allowing just 22.8 shots per game to get through to the net.

But that's the great thing about Hasek. He thrived in his years with Buffalo when he was called upon to stop tons of shots per game and basically carry his team. Now, he faces far fewer shots and still is able to be productive. That type of versatility can be attributed to Hasek's tremendous focus and his flexibility, which remains an asset for the goaltender after all these years.

The fact of the matter is that Hasek is now and has always been a premier puck-stopper, a backstop that opposing forwards hate to see in front of them when bearing down on goal.

It's hard to overemphasize Hasek's place in NHL history, but it is still difficult to fathom that, as a 42-year-old, he's adding to that legacy.

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