Hasek: World's greatest goalie? Not anymore

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The Independent Online

Where's Dominik Hasek? Don't look among the NHL's statistical leaders for the two-time league MVP and best goaltender in five of the last six seasons.

Where's Dominik Hasek? Don't look among the NHL's statistical leaders for the two-time league MVP and best goaltender in five of the last six seasons.

The 1998 Olympic gold medalist? Has anybody seen him?

This was supposed to be a farewell victory tour for Hasek, who plans to retire at the end of the season and return to his native Czech Republic.

But so far, this season has been a gauntlet for the Sabres goaltender, who is winless (0-4-1).

"Of course, it's frustrating when you lose a game," Hasek said Monday. "I haven't won a game yet, and it's very frustrating not to win."

Hasek, benched for two games and pulled from two others, is not even the league's top Dom this season; that honor belongs to Anaheim's Dominic Roussel.

Hasek is not the only Sabres player who suddenly seems to have forgotten which end of the stick to use, however.

"Going through the playoffs last year, we were in a zone where we had every guy playing so well and zoned right in," coach Lindy Ruff said. "Right now, there are times in every game where it seems like every guy is zoned right out."

Coming off a season in which he carried the Sabres to the Stanley Cup finals, Hasek has struggled to compile a modest 3.20 goals-against average and .907 save percentage. Last year's numbers in those two categories, 1.87 and .937, were the best of Hasek's illustrious career despite a nagging groin injury.

Now, it's the questions that are nagging.

Who will start the next game? Hasek is no longer a given. "I'm not announcing my starting goaltender for Wednesday," Ruff said.

Ruff and the Sabres don't blame Hasek. The Sabres (1-6-2) have not played well. When they have, bad luck has tripped them.

Buffalo was tied by Phoenix in the final seconds by a pinball of a shot that deflected off defenseman Alexei Zhitnik and crept underneath Hasek's glove.

And take Saturday's 4-0 loss to Ottawa. Please.

"It was just a mental state we were in," said Ruff, whose team swept the Senators from the playoffs last season but was outshot by Ottawa over the weekend 30-9 after two periods and 35-19 overall.

"Players weren't in the right position," Ruff said. "The careless turnovers is probably what cost us the game in the first period. Those are the plays that kill you, and we probably had 20-plus turnovers against a great transition team."

The Sabres haven't played well with Hasek in goal or on thand were tied on a bizarre goal," Ruff said. "We played all right in Montreal - Dom played well there - and we lost that 2-1 with no offense. This is a strange game."

The solution is not obvious to Ruff. "We've tried early practices, late practices, long videos, short videos, positive videos, negative videos. You try everything."

Martin Biron, Hasek's heir apparent, posted the only win of the season Friday night after being called up from the team's AHL affiliate in Rochester.

Biron, who beat Carolina 7-3, employs Hasek's flopping style.

"I still look at Dom the same way I looked at him last year," Biron said. "You always get in a situation where it doesn't go your way, but that comes back."